For those of us who live inland, hurricane-tracking seems more a curious indulgence, but if you live along the coastal regions in a hurricane zone, keeping tabs on these atmospheric leviathans is paramount.
Case in point, Hurricane Isaac — at one stage threatening Florida and the Republican National Convention — has moved well west, now following a path through the Gulf reminiscent of the one Hurricane Katrina traveled seven years ago.
While it’s shaping up to be a weaker Category One storm when it makes landfall, with sustained winds of between 74 and 95 miles per hour, it’s still very much a hurricane, prompting the governors of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi to declare emergencies (and in Alabama’s case, the governor to order mandatory coastal evacuations).
Here’s a rundown of 2012′s top hurricane tracking apps for those on the go with tablets or smartphones.
Hurricane Tracker (iOS)
My pick of the bunch, EZ Apps’ $2.99 Hurricane Tracker offers detailed storm maps, National Hurricane Center info, threat level maps, audio/video forecast updates, real-time feeds and push alerts. It also employs my favorite interface, giving you four simple categories at launch — hurricanes, tropical storms, tropical depressions and invests — to drill on, with a “quick headlines” blurb and “current systems” maps when you scroll down the page. The number of maps (including animated) and images crammed into this app — EZ Apps claims over 65 — is worth the price of admission alone.
Hurricane Hound (Android)
Hurricane Hound uses Google Maps as its framework and tracks both forecasts and the locations of Atlantic and East Pacific hurricanes and tropical storms, points out areas the National Weather Service is keeping tabs on and offers standard NWS “tropical outlooks and discussions, public advisories, forecasts, and satellite imagery.” Fair warning: The free version of Hurricane Hound hasn’t been updated in over a year, and it looks like the $1.99 add-free version is where developer STKI Concepts is focusing its attention, recently adding support for “current radar and weather satellite overlays.”
Hurricane / Hurricane HD (iOS)
Developer Kitty Code’s longstanding $2.99 hurricane-watching app (updated in June) offers a repository of global meteorological information, including tracking maps, satellite views, five-day forecasts, radar and bulletins from the National Hurricane Center. Pull up Hurricane Isaac and you can see information about wind speed, storm speed and direction as well as follow it from its genesis off the west coast of Africa in mid-August through its current position several hundred miles southeast of the Mississippi River Delta. Probably the app’s most valuable function: using iOS’s locational services to determine how far away you are.
If all you need is tracking for the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern and Central Pacific, Kitty Code offers Hurricane Express, a cheaper $0.99 version that eschews the app’s global features, and if you’re looking for the tablet-optimized version of Hurricane, Kitty Code offers Hurricane HD for $3.99, which adds “exclusive” video and blog updates from HurricaneTrack.com.
Hurricane Software (Android)
When I checked in last, Hurricane Software was a promising beta freebie. It’s now out of beta — still free, though ad-littered (there’s a $2.99 ad-free “Pro” version) — and packing hurricane data from the National Hurricane Center, high resolution maps, satellite images, warning information and storm tracks.
iHurricane HD (iOS)
iHurricane HD is free with ads, distinguishing itself from the pack by tucking a few features behind an in-app paywall. Out of the gate, you can track hurricanes using satellite and radar data, stage email alerts and gauge your distance from “each coordinate of the storm.” But if you want the app’s push services, “more space on the main map” and to banish those annoying ads that sit at the top of the screen, you’ll have to fork over $2.99 through an in-app purchase option.
Hurricane – American Red Cross (Android, iOS)
Last but not least, Hurricane – American Red Cross for both Android or iOS is a newer, totally free addition to Android’s growing hurricane-tracking stable, but it’s more than just a tracker — this app lets you “monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out.” It’s a little light on meteorological data, but think of it as the “safety first” tracker, and check out the video below for a few examples of it in action.
MORE: 50 Best iPhone Apps 2012