Weather Blog

Good sites to keep tabs on Hurricane Irene

Good sites to keep tabs on Hurricane Irene
Astronaut Ron Garan tweeted this picture of Hurricane Irene from the International Space Station on August 24, 2011. (Photo: NASA via Ron Garan/@Astro_Ron)

With Hurricane Irene threatening millions along the East Coast, here are some resources to track the storm as it makes its way up the Atlantic Seaboard this weekend, in case you have ties back east or just want to know how bad the storm is.

The Main National Hurricane Center Page is where you can find the latest advisories and the latest forecasted track of Irene.

The NHC puts out intermediate advisories every three hours and full advisories every six hours. However, they will become more frequent as the storm draws closer to populated areas.

But if you have someone or a particular area you want to keep tabs on, the NHC has links to each local office of the National Weather Service's hurricane bulletins that have more detailed information on evacuation plans and more localized weather forecasts. This list will expand north as the storm moves north. Or, this site has links to all NWS offices across the country

If you just want to watch the storm from afar, you can keep tabs on the latest satellite images here.

For me, I'll be very curious about the wind speeds.

This site links to Just about every observation that exists, be it airport or MesoNet. Hover over the observation to get the current conditions. Check the buoy reports as the storm passes and I'm sure you'll get some amazing readings. (By the way, this Works for Washington too.)

Or, more localized, here is Eastern North Carolina, and Mesonet North Carolina -- in a nice table format

If you have a few exact cities that you want to track, like JFK/New York or Baltimore, you can do that too, provided you know the city's airport code.

You can go to this link akin to: http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/KBWI.html. That link is set for Baltimore/Washington Airport (KBWI) but you can replace that last part of the URL with whatever city's code you want -- just make sure to put a "K" in front of it as International weather standards dictate all United States observations begin with a "K". For example, New York is "KJFK", Philadelphia is "KPHL", Seattle is "KSEA". The weather codes do match airport codes. If you need to find a weather code for a city, you can just Google "Metar (city name)" and you should be able to find it.

This way is also the best way to get the actual peak wind gusts. Little known secret: The hourly observations that are usually posted on public sites show the peak gusts at the time of observation, but if you look inside the actual code, you can find the peak gust of the entire hour -- many times this is higher than the reported gust. Only caveat is it takes some sleuthing -- you have to decode it and translate knots to mph. If on this site above you look under the "ob" you'll see some really cryptic stuff like this: KORL 251753Z 36005KT 10SM SCT018 SCT033 27/23 A2981 RMK AO2 PK WND 06037/1728 RAE1658B29E53 SLP096 P0029 60048 T02670233 10317 20244 56018.

All you care about is the "PKWIND 06037/1728". The first 3 numbers are the wind direction (060 -- Northeast), second two are wind speed in knots (37), the number after the slash is observation time in GMT/UTC. To convert knots to mph, multiply by 1.15, so Orlando reported a 43 mph gust that hour, even though current wind was just 6 mph.