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Chaser/spotter laptop weather programs

Let me first start out by thanking all that reply to this topic.The ST site has taught me lots of weather related info.I would like to know what storm tracking programs that you use on your laptop while chasing/spotting and how you get the info.The reason I am asking this is that I am setting up a laptop in our communications van amd I would like to have acccess to radar maps,ect.I looked into Mobile Threat Net with XM radio and although I love the program and XM radio link I just can't see us as a non-profit storm spotter group being able to cough up the $929.99 for the software program.I know some of you use wifi for connections and yes we cover a semi major city (Omaha,NE) but most of our spotter locations are in the boonies.I guess what I'm asking is what is the most cost effective and reliable form of data tranfer and what weather related programs do you use?Thank you in advance.Jason Tunzer
 
Well no doubt you'll be told that the best tool is your eyes and brain, especially if you're new to this. Don't rely on your equipment - it should only supplement your knowledge of the topic. I'm also not clear on how this will fit in with your "spotting", which normally only involves reporting what you see. Are you chasing as well?

Some dilligent searches through this site will yield the answers you seek, but for the sake of repetition I'll give you my 2 cents:

Internet in the field: it's either wi-fi or cell-phone. Preferably wi-fi; but when it's not there and you need an update you don't have much choice. Search for cell-phone data plans for the area you want to cover. Decide if you really need full-time data while you chase (I don't personally). This is where the XM product starts to look attractive. There are other means to ingest data wirelessly, however they involve specialized solutions that don't include budget in the terminology.

Programs: I use GRlevel3 for radar and have tried a few others for other facets of weather data. I may purchase Digital Atmosphere for next season but I'm still thinking about it. Others will have other opinions.


Good luck!
 
Jason Grlevel3 would be a great program for what you are doing with all the stuff Tyler and Jeff have been doing (ARPS, Repeaters, etc. etc.). As far as data I use my Cellular One phone with a USB cable and it does fine anywhere
west of Omaha. There are also some other affordable cell phone plans that are probably avaliable in the area.

GRLEVEL3-
www.grlevelx.com/grlevel3
www.grlevelx.com/forums
 
Well I've been a storm spotter for 5 years now.We don't "chase",but if we took a hit we would be mobile.Interesting story,we were helping out with the Offutt Air Show earlier this year and most of our spotter where helping out,well we got the info that there were storms blowing up to our west,but no one had access to any data(being it was a military installation,they kinda frown on outside electronics)So we had no idea what was happening.Needless to say they cleared everyone off the base because of the approaching storm.I would personally like to have the info just to be able to see what is heading our way.We have people at the NWS and local tv stations,but the spotters are giving info the them,usually not the other way around.Thanks Jason
 
I use SwiftWX. IMHO, an excellent program. Pretty user friendly with GPS integration and terms I can understand. I use my bluetooth DUN to connect to Sprint PCS's network to download the new updates.
 
Hello, Jason. I am from the Omaha area, also. Here's a few helpful things I cam up with:

1. For cellular service, the ONLY reliable carrier when it comes to state-wide (or even as close as Saunders County) service for data is Alltel. They allow computer tethering on all Camera Phones, all you have to do is ask a Representative to add code FST1 to your account. Alltel works everywhere in the state, and has much better service than any other carrier here.

2. I swear by GRLevel3. It is for ME hands down the best program I have used. It is as configurable as you'd ever want, and with a small subscription fee to one of a few companies, you can have Level3 data almost faster than the NWS can put it out itself, with no interruptions. If you do happen to go down this path, let me know, because I have made some custom files for it to show locations of things such as emergency services and other various things in Douglas County. I also have some great color tables for the radars. (I can also make a file to display all of the watch points, and there is a new file out and about that will allow APRS tracking on-screen.)

If you need anything or help with this stuff, just shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] anytime. Hope this helped.
 
Originally posted by John B Erwin
I'm also not clear on how this will fit in with your \"spotting\", which normally only involves reporting what you see.


I will have to assume that you are not familiar with Emergency Management operations. What Jason said was:

The reason I am asking this is that I am setting up a laptop in our communications van and I would like to have acccess to radar maps,ect.

In a mobile command unit, this would be very benificial. We operate multiple computers with various types of data connections in our mobile command posts. We are even looking into purchasing a satellite continous tracking internet unit for our main unit. When a mobile unit is placed at a incident site due to a tornado strike, the possibility of additional storms developing and tracking over the same site exists (as seen on May 3rd, 1999 in Oklahoma County...there were multiple other tornadic storms in the area during the incident response and rescue phase). Lightning and flooding rainfall are other concerns. If the Comm unit is used at events such as festivals, parades, etc, having real-time weather data is very important.

I would recommend getting a copy of CAMEO. It is free, and you can either download it or request a free copy on CD (very helpful if you are performing multiple site installs).

http://www.epa.gov/ceppo/cameo/
 
Originally posted by Chris Sokol
I will have to assume that you are not familiar with Emergency Management operations. What Jason said was:

The reason I am asking this is that I am setting up a laptop in our communications van and I would like to have acccess to radar maps,ect.

Actually I am Chris. In the original posting it wasn't clear that Jason was a part of any Emergency Management organization at all; rather it seemed to be a "spotter" group (I will have to assume that you are familiar with typical spotter operations). Jason has since clarified what kinds of functions they do and now I understand where his question came from.
 
If you need radar with an internet connection try XM's Mobile Threat Net, and if you have Phone internet try GRLevel3....I personally love GRLevel3 because of it's detailed radar feeds, and advanced options plus you only have to pay one. Mobile Threat Net is really a great source for radar feeds if your mobile, and can not get a solid internet connection for a solid amount of time. Mobile Threat Net does have a tendency to display more or less Composite Reflectivity it would seem.
 
Yes we do work with the local EMA,we are their backup communications in the event of a disaster,but we are not funded by them.We are a Non-profit oganization whos main goal is weather spotting.In the event of an emergency or any other time we cannot get weather info through other sources I would like to have a backup.I did look at Mobile threat net and actually had some email conversations with them,but with the cost of thier software ($929.99)plus the monthly subscription, there is just no way to afford that.So it looks like i am leaning towards GRLevel3,which itself is also a great product.I just need to check into the cellphone connection part of it and go from there.Thanks again! Jason Tunzer
 
I will have to assume that you are not familiar with Emergency Management operations. What Jason said was:

The reason I am asking this is that I am setting up a laptop in our communications van and I would like to have acccess to radar maps,ect.

Actually I am Chris. In the original posting it wasn't clear that Jason was a part of any Emergency Management organization at all; rather it seemed to be a "spotter" group (I will have to assume that you are familiar with typical spotter operations). Jason has since clarified what kinds of functions they do and now I understand where his question came from.

Thats cool John...I looked at what I typed and it kinda looked like a slam...didn't mean it that way at all. Looking back at the origonal post, I can see the lack of clarity. Again, sorry if it looked like I was slamming you.
 
Originally posted by Chris Sokol
Thats cool John...I looked at what I typed and it kinda looked like a slam...didn't mean it that way at all. Looking back at the origonal post, I can see the lack of clarity. Again, sorry if it looked like I was slamming you.

Not a problem Chris, no offence taken. Hopefully Jason has received the information he needs to make an informed decision.

Cheers!
 
Just personal preference, but right now I'm happy with SwiftWx 2.5. With the new update, it puts the storm reports from NWS on the map which gives an almost "visual" confirmation of what's coming out of the sky. After submitting a report on eSpotter, it was on the map in less than 5 minutes and that was just on the default refresh rates. Wasn't watching the clock, could of been sooner. Hook it up to GPS and the net on a laptop and you're good to go!

But as always, it's only a tool. I agree with the earlier comment on using your eyes and brain! :)

-Joe Lawton
M07374
 
Everyone knows I like to have a lot of gadgets and software onboard a chase, but I have often thought, if I had to give it all up but one thing, what would I keep? Well aside from a video camera it would be my laptop with Delorme GPS receiver and Street Atlas. While we still use some paper mapbooks for longer range route/intercept planning, having that program has proven to nearly be indispensable. The ability to look and know EXACTLY where you are at in a moments glance just can't be beat! Sure beats the crap out of the old days of trying to figure out roughly where you are on a paper map. It's the best for giving storm reports. Even if your not on or near a crossroads, you can always give them a lat/long.

I have used it to map out tornado paths. We even use it locate restaurants, stores and motels. All the radar and video editing and all the other software is wonderful to have, but that mapping software is a godsend tool, despite it's few drawbacks that have been noted on this forum when the discussion comes up.
 
I completely understand the dilema of the spotter. The Hallam tornado gave some spotters a significant scare. One watched a semi get flipped 50 yards away from what he believed was a satellite vortex. Others were about a mile north of the monster wedge. I don't know how helpful anything would be for the spotter in this situation except to get out of there if possible or seek shelter when the weather goes beyond your comfort zone. A NOAA Wx Radio is perhaps the best and cheapest solution as it usually highlights the most dangerous part of the storm. There is no reason why any spotter shouldn't carry one. Numerous cell phone companies offer various subscirption based weather products (MyCast, TWC, AccuWeather, etc). Of course these require the digital tower which may not be available in the "sticks". The spotter will need to know what he is looking at and some of them probably just see a red blob comming toward the county. Communication is another key to keeping spotters safe. Usually the EM center has radar data but the person looking at it needs to have some knowledge of what he is looking at. Just seeing red blobs doesn't do much. I was chasing the June 13 supercell north of Lincoln (the infamous Hollinshead pic). A volunteer fireman spotter was on the hill and pulled out behind me well after I knew the situation was getting very bad and had to get the hell out of there quick. Proverbial right mover caught me off gaurd. That guy didn't have much time to get back to dinky Ceresco before the core came munching. Perhaps this fireman wasn't getting all the info he needed to make the move faster.
 
As I started out like I assume most of us did with just a weather radio and maps..
I now have a laptop with Delorme Street Atlas and Baron MTN. I like the system as now it has changed the dynamics of my chasing.. I toggle back and forth through Baron and Street Atlas constantly re evaluating my target, position to storm etc... Its quite the fun little challenge..

Although this data and these tools make it easier to catch severe storms while in the field.. It certainly adds a new challenge using a techno approach. I love it!
 
Jason,

It sounds like the cell phone system would be the best answer for your situation. It really doesn’t matter which radar program you use or if you just get the info from the NWS sites. You just need data somehow. I use a cell phone connection through Verizon and have not had any issues around the greater Omaha area, and the download speeds are pretty good. I’d be happy to meet up and go over my setup, it really pretty simple. It also looks like Adam has some good things going too. Good luck and send me a PM if you want to talk.
 
I/we at INCHASE use the interwarn product... Stormlab Pro 3.1 and Interwarn 4.1 We are extremely happy with both products. These give us the maps and radar we need, gps integration with location and dbz threshold warnings that allow us to look and a entire list of attirbutes....

which we use with a data to phone service. Verizon as primary and Cngular as backup. We have a buffalo card with a sweet radiolabs antenna which allows us to pull in wifi from the planet mars..
 
<_< I work both EM and Skywarn operations. We use interwarn and swiftwx 2.5. I have tried most all of the radar products and with the 2.5 update to swiftwx adding storm reports and mobile unit tracking allowing us to not have to have ham lisc. to track units in the field it has become the one peice of software I will tell those in our county to get. Useing this software allows me to free up a computer station that has been running APRS .It also allows me to include spotters which are not hams into the field tracking which is important in the overall safety of our spotters includeing storm reports which tend to get repeated over and over on the radio so that everyone is on the same page.

Just my dimes worth... :)
 
My forecast services start tomorrow. What I use is my own Digital Atmosphere Professional, which with the TPC and JOG raster maps does a superior job of showing the storms in relation to the road network (especially the farm-to-markets). It also lets me load up old radar products such as archives from NCDC/HAS. However it's not complete either without GR3, which fills the niche for animation (which DA does not do, at least not yet). GR3 is also a good all-around viewing program. Its shortfall is I don't see anywhere to set the loop size, and having too many animation frames is very distracting. There's also Weathertap as a backup. I got that because COD (my favorite free radar source) packs too many frames in its animation, making for unwieldy filesizes and it distracts from interpretation.

Tim
 
GR3 is also a good all-around viewing program. Its shortfall is I don't see anywhere to set the loop size, and having too many animation frames is very distracting.[/b]
Not sure what version you are running Tim, but the latest version for registered users has animation settings under the View menu with options from 5 to 20 frames.
 
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