After spending time trying to monitor the paths of various tornadoes from a nice neighbor's storm shelter a few times in recent weeks, I realized that I needed to update the mobile weather applications on my devices like my iPhone. The Sunday, May 19, tornadoes came close to my house, hitting the housing addition directly to the north of mine, and I didn't realize it until I saw the damage to those neighborhoods.
My old weather apps, downloaded a couple of years ago, gave me the current temperature and basic conditions and links to National Weather Service-issued warnings, which helped, but it didn't give me the details I wanted when I was hiding in the shelter or standing by it, ready to hurry down the stairs — like, where exactly was the tornado at any given minute, and where was it headed?
So I went searching for new weather applications to download. Those looking for some guidance in the aftermath of the devastating ones from Friday night and from Moore, Shawnee, etc., might like the new Tornado by American Red Cross app, available both on the Google Play Store for Android and the iTunes Store for iPhones and related devices. Using the app, people can find lists of open Red Cross shelters in the area and a list of “critical action steps” to take if your property has been hit.
This app, part of a Red Cross series that includes earthquakes, hurricanes and general first aid, gives you location-based alerts and maps for tornadoes and other storm dangers, but it also has other features, including the ability to tell your family and friends you're safe by sending a single message; checklists to make sure you're prepared and a toolkit that launches a flashlight or an alarm using your device.
In the middle of Friday's storm, I kept turning to my new RadarScope app from Base Velocity, which is $9.99 on both the iTunes and Google Play stores and was recommended by several people. It pinned my location on a map and then overlaid it with the tornado's path, flood warnings and radar either from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or iMap Weather. It also offers many other features to appeal to more advanced users, which I will have to explore and learn.
In addition, iMap Weather Radio, developed by Norman's Weather Decision Technologies and also $9.99 on both iTunes and Google Play, has extensive features that can get you the information you need in an emergency — radar and warnings — and you can set it to sound the alarm on your phone if your family needs to take shelter, like a middle-of-the-night weather radio would do.
Mesonet, which is free and a partnership project of the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, offers weather observations from Mesonet stations throughout the state — recent rainfall accumulation, wind, soil temperature, current radar etc., information great for all of us amateur meteorologists in Oklahoma.
I also liked some of our Oklahoma City TV stations' free live-streaming apps, which allowed me to get the same news feed that the meteorologists were showing on TV, which wasn't available in the shelter or on the back porch as we watched.
Even better, because of the disaster, mobile carrier companies like AT&T and Verizon have waived Oklahoma users' data, text and voice overage charges this month through June 30, so I don't have to worry about data when I'm streaming the information from these apps.
If you need help or want to help after the recent Oklahoma tornadoes, go online to NewsOK.com to view lists of ways to do so.