App of the Week: Three Hurricane Tracking Apps Just in Time for Hurricane Season

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App: Hurricane Platforms: iPhone Web site: Apple Link Cost: $3.99

App: iHurricane HD Platforms: iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile Web site: Download Link Cost: $2.99

App: Hurricane Tracker Platforms: iPhone Web site: Apple Link Cost: $0.99

I feel like all I write about lately is hurricanes. Well, lucky you, here's something else about them. In this case, it is technology related. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with peak activity normally between the beginning of August and the end of September. There are tons of different ways to track storms both on the Web and through other broadcast mediums, so, naturally, there's an app for that, too.

In this case, there are three very good apps available for all your hurricane tracking, forecasting and researching needs. What was surprising to me when I researched these is how extensive they are. I suppose the makers of these apps figure anyone nerdy enough to want to track a hurricane on his phone must want as much data as possible.

First up is the simply titled Hurricane from KittyCode software and, despite being the most expensive offering at just under four bucks, it may very well pack the biggest punch. Like the others, it offers basic tracking using Google Map technology. It also has a data feed that includes current satellite and infrared maps, tropical outlook from NOAA, sea surface temperature maps -- impressively including one that factors in Saharan dust -- and other nice features like storm names and some resource links.

But this is the only one that has a historical tracking database dating back to the mid 1850s! Click any year and cycle through storms to view their track on current Google Maps. It is a super fast way to reference any storm.

On the map, wind speed and pressure are marked at every interval along with exact coordinates. I assume this is the same as what is available for an active storm since there are none out there at the moment. Click an arrow at the bottom of the screen to scroll through the track progression.

Overall, this is a very impressive app with a ton of features that makes it well worth the $3.99 for hurricane nerds like me.

But iHurricane HD is no slouch and, for those of you not using an iPhone, this is the app for you. On the iPhone, the app works very well, though the interface is a little less elegant than the others. Judging by the company that created it -- HurricaneSoftware.com -- this is clearly an app made by engineers based on their own PC-based software. That would seem to mean a lot of features and it does.

iHurricane HD has a slightly more extensive set of satellite options than Hurricane, and one thing it does offer that the others don't is push notifications. During hurricane season, that probably comes in handy.

It doesn't provide a full history of storms like Hurricane, but it does display storms from last year, which allowed me to check out the tracking interface. Like the others, it relies heavily on Google Maps. One unique feature of iHurricane is the detailed information for each point on the tracking map. It isn't right on the screen, but clicking on the popup provides a very detailed look at all the pertinent details of the storm at that time, including the distance between your location and the storm, an interesting way to mark the storm's relative position.

Finally, there is Hurricane Tracker. This app may have the best interface of the bunch, with a sliding set of navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen. This one, unlike either of the others, has audio and video updates -- currently none are available since we aren't in hurricane season yet -- as well as a Twitter link to view their feed, which I assume will contain hurricane information during the season.

This is the one app that didn't have any previous storm content on it by which to judge the tracking feature, but the maps appear very similar and the screen caps tell a similar story. This one seems to rely more on the National Hurricane Center for track forecasts than the others, but nothing wrong with that.

It will be interesting to see how these apps perform during hurricane season, particularly as updates come in from the National Hurricane Center. Some Web sites tend to post them more quickly than others. I wonder which apps will do the same.

The Verdict

If you aren't using an iPhone, iHurricane is your only option and it is a very good one. If you are on the iPhone and are a big hurricane geek like me, Hurricane is your app. The historical section alone is worth the cost. If you just want a solid tracking app without the extra expense, Hurricane Tracker is a quality offering at a lower price.

Honestly, you couldn't go wrong with any of these. Happy tracking!

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