From tracking and data to emergency walkie-talkie capabilities and where to find gas, these apps can help weather the storm.
When it became known that the Cajun Navy was using the walkie-talkie app, Zello, to coordinate rescues during Hurricane Harvey, the app shot to the top of the App Store's free-apps chart. It kind of became an indispensable tool in the face of emergency, and with new hurricanes lining up like planes on a flight pattern, Zello is maintaining its dominance. For all the silly frivolous apps in the world, it bears remembering that there are some excellent ones out there, and in times of disaster, they can be lifelines.
Whether you're interested in tracking the storm from afar, or you're in the thick of it and need emergency functions and information, any of these apps could come in handy. (We've included links to iTunes in the titles of each app, but note that most are available at Google Play as well.)
1. Hurricane Tracker
This old-school hurricane tracking app was one of the first and it remains relevant. It provides detailed storm maps, National Hurricane Center info, threat-level maps, forecast updates, real-time feeds and push alerts. Reviewed by CNN as the best Hurricane Tracking app available for iPhone, it's the most used and most comprehensive tracking app available on any platform, say its creators.
2. Hurricane American Red Cross
While this app is lighter on actual meteorological information than some of the others – the latest iTune version doesn't get as good reviews for actual tracking compared to previous versions – it still allows you to monitor conditions while also providing plenty of information on preparing your home and family, finding help and shelters (which could be especially helpful) and alerting others of your status.
Another of the early hurricane-tracking apps, it’s still one of the most highly regarded. It has good satellite images and NOAA reports; can be integrated with Twitter – an important real-time tool; has historical storm data, and includes push notifications.
4. NOAA Now
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration app provides comprehensive information including: hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans; mainland storms, including the latest tornado and severe thunderstorm alerts; worldwide animated satellite views; the latest marine conditions from the National Data Buoy Center; the ultraviolet index. Great all-around information covering a variety of scenarios.
I use Zello to chat with a group of international colleagues, but its capabilities go way beyond a glorified chat room. One needs to be connected to a cellular or wireless network to use the walkie-talkie feature, but it's a very effective way to communicate and users can join channels for easy group messaging. Hey, if it's good enough for the Cajun Navy, it's good enough for the rest of us. Business Insider has a great walk-through for how to use the app for an emergency.
6. Snapchat’s Snap Map
Not just for teens to add cute location stickers to their snaps! The interactive map lets users share their location with friends or the public. Many users were documenting the impact and rescue stories around Hurricane Harvey on their Snapchat Stories, which can be accessed on Snap Maps. As Karissa Bell for Mashable writes: "Snapchat is turning out to be a major resource for people trying to keep tabs on what's happening on the ground in Houston. Snapchat users are turning to Snap Maps to keep tabs on flooding and other damage across Houston neighborhoods in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey."
Hitting the road? With thousands of others at the same time? Get this app. Designed for year-round use, as in, not just evacuations, the app leads drivers to the cheapest gas in their areas. But now, it's new and improved with a hurricane-specific update: "This app update provides gas and power availability tracking for areas impacted by the hurricanes. Users who need to refuel cars, boats and jet skis to aid rescue operations can easily search for stations that have power and fuel. We ask that if you encounter a station with no fuel or no power, please edit the information in the app to assist others who are searching for gas."
The FEMA app provides tips and tools for before, during, and after disasters, including weather-related alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service. You can upload and share disaster photos to help out emergency managers as well as other specific tools, like create a custom list of the items in your emergency kit or locations of planned family meeting sites; it also helps to locate open shelters and where to talk to FEMA in person at Disaster Recovery Centers.
So there you have it; modern apps for modern a modern world. Alas.