September 02, 2010, 9:35 PM — If you've been paying a lot of attention to Danielle, Earl, and Fiona lately-- no, you won't find pics of them on TMZ.com--then a hurricane-tracking app, built specifically for your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, may help feed your curiosity about storms. A variety of inexpensive apps are available for both devices. Of the handful reviewed here, one is a universal app, and two have separate--but nearly identical--versions for the iPhone and the iPad.
Despite significant differences in quality, the apps share a common limitation on the iPhone, which is simply that the screen is too small to get really good views of storm images. Hurricanes cut enormous swaths over both sea and land and can mosey along for a thousand miles or more before petering out--not easy to envision on an iPhone screen. The apps also share a common information source: the National Hurricane Center, which has an information-packed standard Website, which has also been optimized for mobile device. (It even includes radar-in-motion.) The site isn't fancy, but it's free.
If you're looking for something a bit fancier, though, the winner of this small pack of apps is Hurricane HD for iPad, and its well-designed iPhone counterpart, Hurricane. The apps from Kitty Code are nearly identical. Each enables you to view maps and information in both landscape and portrait view. "Storm tracking," which shows, with dozens of points on a map, the entire path of the hurricane from where it was first classified to its real or forecast endpoint, is exceptional. For any active storm, you can tap on a point, and a pop-up window appears indicating the hurricane's wind speed and pressure. It does this throughout the storm's path, which begins when it is first classified and ends as far as the forecast goes. If you enable location services on your iOS device, the app will even tell you how far you are from the hurricane's eye.
Hurricane HD's home screen is easier to navigate and provides more information than the other apps reviewed here. It lists the active and completed storms of the year on the left-hand side of the screen; tapping on a storm's name leads to an immediate display on the right of the storm's latest position, speed and direction, pressure, and wind speed.
Hurricane HD also excels in both its graphics (smartly resized and easily scrollable in the iPhone version) and its historical data. It provides detailed information on storms dating back to the mid-19th century. Remember the Great Middle Florida category 3 hurricane of 1851? Surely not, but you can get the storm data--with storm tracks--on that one, and the four other unnamed storms of that year, as well.