Monitoring storms online can be fun, informative

Editor’s Note: The following is taken from the Cayman Free Press
2010 Hurricane Supplement, which is available online at www.caycompass.com or
at our offices on Shedden Road.

There was a time when monitoring
tropical cyclones meant taking out a hurricane grid map and tracking the
movements of the storm across the ocean based on periodic radio reports.

Now, with broadband Internet widely
available, monitoring a hurricane is far easier and far more informative.  But you have to know what websites to visit.

Any tracking of a hurricane should
start at the National Hurricane Centre website of the US National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration.

Most of the information found on
other websites ultimately derives from the National Hurricane Centre site and
Hazard Management Cayman Islands also uses the Hurricane Centre’s advisories as
a basis of their own notices.

The National Hurricane Centre
website (www.nhc.noaa.gov) issues public advisories every three hours on active
tropical cyclones that include any hurricane/tropical storm watches and warnings,
wind speeds, direction of movement and wave heights.

Every six hours, the Hurricane
Centre issues discussions and forecasts for active tropical cyclones that talk
generally about the storm, whether it’s likely to weaken or intensify and in
what direction it is most likely to head. 

Also on the Hurricane Centre site
are various satellite images and map graphics with a projected path of the
storm’s centre going forward 120 hours, illustrating possible deviations in a
cone of uncertainty.

One thing the National Hurricane
Centre site does not show, although its discussions often refer to them, are
the forecast paths of an active cyclone from the various different computer
models. These models are illustrated on several other sites, but one of the
best is the tropical weather section of Weather Underground
(www.wunderground.com/tropical).

In addition, the Weather
Underground site has much of the same information as the National Hurricane
site. It also has a blog written by the site’s co-founder, Jeff Masers, a
meteorologist who used to fly into hurricanes with NOAA’s famed Hurricane
Hunters. In addition to Masters’ daily insights on active storms, the blog features
an interactive forum for amateur and professional weather watchers, who often
write from places on the projected path of a cyclone.

Another site is the Tropical
Weather Page of meteorologist Rob Lightbown’s Crown Weather Services (www.crownweather.com).
In addition to the latest National Hurricane Centre information, the site
offers lots of graphics and satellite images. 

Lightbown also writes a detailed
daily tropical update discussion during the hurricane season for which you can
sign up to receive by email.  Unlike many
of the other sites, Lightbown often expresses his hunches – based on his
experience and knowledge – which are usually quite interesting.

One of the sites with the best
graphics is the tropical page of the HAMweather site (www.hamweather.com). The
site does a good job of presenting all of the current National Hurricane Centre
information and also offers a global image of the world’s active cyclones and
invests, which are potential areas of tropical cyclone formation.

HAMweather also shows dozens of
computer models and forecast tracks of active cyclones and invests, and allows
users to choose particular models instead of having the usual spaghetti pattern
of multiple tracks.

Local monitoring

Since none of the overseas-based
websites focus on the Cayman Islands specifically, hurricane monitoring should
also be done locally.

The Cayman Free Press website at
www.caycompass.com is constantly updated when there is a potential for a
tropical cyclone to impact the Islands. 

The site offers information issued
by Hazard Management Cayman Islands from the government, including rain, wind
and sea forecasts for the Islands, current watches and warnings, curfews and
evacuation orders.

The site also contains
up-to-the-minute news on hurricane shelter openings, school closings, store
hours and planned public utility stoppages. 
You can also read what some residents are saying about the approaching
storm.

Most importantly, Cayman Free Press
staff will continue writing about what is happening after a storm passes,
showing photographs from the Islands and giving accounts of any damage or
disruptions to life as usual.

Another important local website is
that of Hazard Management Cayman Islands at www.caymanprepared.ky.  The easily navigated site posts updated
advisories from various Cayman Islands Government entities and also offers
extensive information on hurricane response, recovery and relief aid, as well
as a history of hurricanes affecting the Cayman Islands.

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