Some thoughts from the National Hurricane Conference

The 2012 National Hurricane Conference is in the bag. While I do not know how many people attended, I am sure it was far lower a number than I have seen in years past. The stalled economy, budget cuts and $4.00/gallon gas no doubt have had an impact on this important national forum.

None the less, I was in attendance for two of the four days and learned a lot. I will share much more about that in the weeks to come but for now, a couple of quick thoughts.

One of the most interesting subjects was that of storm surge and how to educate the public about what to really expect. As someone who has seen, recorded and studied numerous storm surge events dating back to the late 1990s, I perhaps took for granted that when people hear of a potential 10 to 15 foot storm surge that they would automatically, without question, take the necessary action to save lives and mitigate property damage. Remember that storm surge has the greatest potential for loss of life, above all of the other tropical cyclone hazards. Yet, apparently  a lot of people do not understand their vulnerability to surge much less what a surge forecast actually means.

Continue reading

What goes up….could be very exciting. Introducing: HURR-B

Hurricane Balloon Logo

Hurricane Balloon Logo (click for larger version)

Ever wonder what the inside of the eye of a hurricane looks like? Think of those birds we often hear about that get trapped inside the eye, flying around in the (relatively) calm air. If all goes well, we will get a fantastic look at one the strangest weather phenomenon on the planet.

I wish to introduce you to our newest, most ambitious project to date. Say hello to HURR-B (pronounced Herbie). It’s a weather balloon that we will send to the edge of space from inside the eye of a hurricane. It will eventually burst and the payload will drift safely back to earth via the parachute.

Continue reading

Android/Smartphone optimized pages coming to Client Services

In our modern world of iPhones, Android powered devices, tablets and portable, long lasting laptops, it is more important than ever for Web content to be available on such devices. As you know by now, we are introducing an iPhone app later this spring. It will contain a specific set of features that will serve the ever-growing iOS market. At the same time, we do not want to ignore the vast numbers of Android and other Smartphone device owners who use our site for news and information. We have a plan….

Beginning April 1, we will roll out a mobile version of our Client Services site, the subscription service that we offer for those wishing to access more features than we can offer on the free site. The cornerstone of our Client Services site is the live video ability. Since 2005, we have offered multiple live video feeds during our hurricane field missions. Since that time, we have added satellite and radar loops, live chat, a daily video blog (live broadcast and then archived) as well as many other features that have made the service the success that it is today.

Continue reading

Welcome to 2012 and the all new HurricaneTrack!

Way back in 1999, I posted the very first update to this site when tropical storm Arlene formed. I termed it “commentary” and have used that moniker ever since. Today, I say goodbye to the venerable commentary and hello to the much more modern blog. Yes, I am now a blogger and this is my first official post.

So, where do I start? How about the look and feel (and functionality) of the site. The most significant change is the use of WordPress. Thanks to a nice little push from Ilene Jones who is the CEO of KittyCode (remember that name, it will be important later), I finally moved in to the advanced world of having a WordPress powered site. I was skeptical at fist; resistant to change. But after playing with several themes and learning what’s what, I settled in and have become quite comfortable with the new technology (new to me anyway).

The real power of the new site will be our ability to post blogs more efficiently. Our team can now post their own content without cumbersome FTP and HTML writing. Hard to believe that’s how things were done for over 12 years. What’s really nice is that we can post under categories, including off-season topics such as severe weather, Nor’easters and other disruptive weather events. After all, being aware is critical and we have a great team- why not utilize that talent pool even when it’s not hurricane season?

You will have access to blogs from our entire team and will be able to interact directly with them here or through their own social networking links. This will really help to provide a more rounded level of information from Mike, Jesse, Greg, Todd and me. I hope to add some guest bloggers to the list as well- perhaps an up and coming hurricane forecaster or an expert in some area of hurricane preparedness, mitigation or recovery. There really is no limit to what we can do now by utilizing the power of WordPress.

When we head out on our field missions to cover tropical storm and hurricane landfall events, this homepage will disappear- to be replaced by a special edition of the homepage with the free Ustream player embedded. The simplified “mission mode” homepage will provide our visitors with a live look at where we are and what we’re seeing/hearing. We’ll also embed our Twitter and Facebook feeds on to this page for continuous short posts throughout the event. With this plan in place, we can continue to provide free live video to visitors of the site while we also maintain our dedication to our private clients (our Client Services members) and those utilizing our new iPhone app. Once the mission is over, this homepage will return and the blogging will begin again.

You will notice too that you now have the ability to post comments to the blog posts. I will try this out but have a fear that it could get out of hand sooner rather than later. While I will hope and encourage relevant and useful feedback, there is an ever-present layer of troll scum that graces the Internet, always waiting for a chance to spout off with nothing more than grade school level non-sense and even hatred. If this becomes a chronic problem, I will disable comments and reserve them only for our subscribers. We shall see- this will be an interesting experiment to say the least.

The other big news of the New Year is our up and coming iPhone app. We are finally getting in to the mobile app business and ours will be an exciting addition to the world of weather/hurricane apps. Remember that I mentioned Ilene from Kitty Code? Her company, who produces the phenomenally successful Hurricane and HurricaneHD apps, is working with us to design HurricaneTrack for iPhone. Instead of writing about it in this post, check out the full description here. We anticipate the release date to be sometime in late March or early April but certainly before the hurricane season begins. I am very excited about this new feature and am honored to be working with KittyCode to make it happen. I will keep you posted on the progress and the expected release date of the app.

So that’s about it for now. We have a lot of work to do in the off-season and we all know it will go by quickly. I truly appreciate the people who visit this site and look forward to interacting via a whole new medium with this new WordPress site. Remember, hurricanes are very serious. We take them seriously and will do all we can to put our years of experience in tracking them, being right there at landfall and dealing with their aftermath to help you better understand what you may be up against. Don’t forget that we will discuss non-hurricane related weather events here and, from time to time, will stream live through our Ustream channel during such events when possible. Have a wonderful New Year and stay safe! We can’t do this without YOU!