Tag Archives: tornado

Twitter now Boasts Nearly 200 Million Visitors

During the CM Summit today, Twitter COO Dick Costolo informed the gathered crowd that Twitter now has approximately 190 million visitors per month. Collectively, those people send out about 65 million tweets per day. Holy Twitter client – that’s a lot of updates. ““We’re laying down track as fast as we can in front of the train,” says Costolo. These numbers are up slightly from 180 million self-reported unique visitors per month back in April, and 50 million Tweets per day in February.”

The number of visitors to the site is not the same thing as the number of registered users. Costolo reminded us that most users never send out a single tweet (though I cannot imagine that!). Instead, they use the site to consume information and news. It’s also not clear how many of those 65 million tweets come from spam bots and the like.

Twitter is much more than just a place to update your friends and family. It’s honestly the fastest way to find out the latest news – usually while it is happening. For instance, my assistant Kat used Twitter two nights ago to track the deadly and destructive tornadoes that ripped through Illinois. She has family in and near the locations where the damage was the worst, and couldn’t reach them during the storms. She kept her eyes glued to Twitter, finding out information there far quicker than she did on any other source. The local newspaper website (and tv site) didn’t have ANY information about the storms until more than an hour after they happened. However, people living through the catastrophe were live tweeting every moment.

Social networking is about staying connected – with the world. When you open up your mind to the possibilities that are out there and learn to take advantage of them, you’ll find yourself learning new things every moment of every day.

iPad Weather


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When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Meteorologist. It didn’t happen, of course. I do enjoy the weather changes we have here in the Pacific Northwest. I really love the iPad weather app put out by our friends at WeatherBug. WeatherBug Elite for iPad employs the power of the WeatherBug network to provide iPad users with the latest weather information including local current conditions, extended forecast, severe weather alerts, animated Doppler radar, live weather camera images and much more!

This is a seriously full-featured app at a ridiculously awesome price… free! Key app features include:

  • – Users get a comprehensive single-screen view of weather information via a new widget panel design and large display map integration.
  • Location-Enabled Intelligence – Use “Find Me” to bypass location settings, allowing the app to automatically detect device location in order to present the most relevant weather data.
  • Optimized Visualization – Large maps are available to better visualize current conditions and approaching storms. The entire presentation of weather data is optimized for either portrait or landscape mode viewing.
  • High Resolution Video – View WeatherBug National Outlook videos in 640×480 resolution.
  • Instant Camera Images – Quick-glance snapshots and live weather camera images are instantly available from up to 15 locations within 100 mile radius of the user’s current location.

You’ll find a host of other features, as well, including Live, local current conditions, Radar animation, nine contour map layers, Severe weather alerts and so much more.

This app is honestly one of the best weather apps I’ve ever come across. There is no end to what you can do, see and learn with WeatherBug Elite on your iPad.

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How to Save a Life

Geek!This is Scott Gast’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

My name is Scott Gast. I am 22 years old and live in a small town called Colonial Beach, VA (population < 2,000). I try to stay busy all the time and have been that way since I was a little kid. I am a Graphic Designer under contract (paid), Shift Manager (paid), Ambulance Driver (Volunteer), and I am also an Independent Storm Chaser for the National Weather Service (Volunteer). I volunteer as much of my time as possible and in any way possible with no limitations.One day, a few years ago, I was working at our local grocery store, Food Lion. My shift supervisor had stepped outside the front door for a moment to speak with the store manager before he left for the day. Within seconds of her going outside, she came running back through the front door screaming my name frantically. I tried to calm her down but she was too scared and frightened to speak. Being unable to talk, she started throwing her arm in a directional motion towards the window. Starting to get scared myself from her reaction, I looked out the window to see what made her so upset. I saw a small tornado on the ground traveling slowly down the side of our local highway (Rt. 205) towards our shopping center.Being the only person around with experience in severe weather situations such as this, I went outside (dumb move on my part, but intensely exhilarating) and immediately called the National Weather Service office in Wakefield, VA. I identified myself with my SkyWarn Storm Spotter ID number and told them my exact location and the current severe weather conditions. The meteorologist I was speaking with informed me that their office had not yet received any reports of a funnel-cloud making contact with the ground in our area, nor were they focused on it, as they were concerned with other localities in our state with "multiple sightings" of hazardous weather conditions. With the information I had provided them, the National Weather Service was able to issue a Tornado Warning in advance for Charles County, MD, which is two miles across the Potomac River from our town.The tornado had dissipated, the winds calmed down and the rain started pouring as the storm system worked its way across the river. Work then returned to normal and the talk of the town was now on what had happened in the "Food Lion parking lot in the beach." Later that evening, around 11 or so, I was watching Channel 9 News and could not believe my eyes. There was a reporter speaking over-top video footage taken by helicopter of a demolished house in Charles County, MD from earlier on in the evening.As it turns out, moments after I had reported the tornado in Colonial Beach, the same storm cluster had produced yet another tornado. This time it was in Maryland. A homeowner, with her son in hand, came on camera and told the reporter that she was in her living room folding laundry when an 'Emergency Broadcast Alert' popped up on her television with a Tornado Warning for her county. She immediately ran outside to search for her six year old son when, to her disbelief, she saw what appeared to be a funnel cloud (spinning in the clouds that closely resembles a tornado, but has not yet made contact with the ground) a few blocks up the road from her residence. She started yelling for her son in the backyard, and terrified by his mother's tone of voice, he came running from the side of the house. They were both able to make it into their basement within seconds of the tornado hitting their home and completely destroying it.I could not believe what I had seen. What happened next was even more unbelievable. The broadcaster stated that their news station had contacted the National Weather Service office in Sterling, VA (Maryland's local NWS office), who then told them that thanks was not due to their office, but to the SkyWarn Storm Spotter in Colonial Beach, VA, who was able to report an earlier tornado associated with the same storm cell. That, in turn, had prompted them to issue an advance warning for their county when they did. They did not mention my name as the NWS is not allowed to by law, but it was not necessary.I had saved two lives by making a phone call. Never before had anything like this ever happened to me. My emotions, in knowing what I had done was beneficial to the lives of a mother and her son, completely overwhelmed me. I do not consider myself a hero, as I probably should, but more-so as a person in my community doing something to better the lives of others. I have this feeling deep inside that one day, somewhere and somehow, the mother who's life I helped to save or her son, will too, help save someone else's life. I believe its nature's way of "paying it forward".Technology is saving lives every day. If it weren't for the technology in my cell phone to call the National Weather Service, their radar to confirm the tornado, their alert system to notify the public of the on-coming storm and the television's 'Emergency Broadcast' to spread the word, two lives would have been lost that day. It's up to us, the general public, to find new ways to utilize the numerous possibilities of combining every resource available to help the lives of others, even if it helps just one family. You too may need help one day.

Where can you Watch Severe Weather Videos Online?

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I love living in the Seattle area, because I’m a big fan of overcast skies. This is in sharp contrast to my home state of Iowa, where’s there’s severe weather of all types nearly every other day. Severe weather is terrifying, to be sure. However, it’s also beautiful and many people love to see it on video. Severe weather is just not for me, though. Growing up, I was deathly afraid of tornadoes and storms. Seriously, I even had nightmares sometimes.

We have so much technology today to connect us with people all around the world. While I don’t like being caught in the middle of a storm, I don’t mind watching them online. We have a couple of storm chasers in our chat room who have shared severe weather tips with us. Now is an excellent time of year to read back through that post, too.

Anywho, UncleJohn is one of our halfops in the Chat room. He pointed me towards a site the other night where I can remotely chase storms if I was so inclined! I had to zip over to check out Severe Studios. Man, this is amazing. At the time I pulled it up, you couldn’t even see Oklahoma and Iowa. They were covered in red and orange and green, due to a nasty band of storms.

According to the coordinates that the chasers sent out, we could pinpoint their location and follow along with the developments. You can either watch live as they are chasing, or visit old chases. There is a lot of amazing footage, to be sure.

One of the reasons I am able to do my videos is thanks to WeatherBug. They are one of our sponsors, and also help to embed the current outside temperature into the upper left corner of my videos. They actually have a WeatherBug blog on Lockergnome now. You can go there and ask any questions you have, or keep up with their latest news. Matt Hartley has been posting quite a lot of information on the API, and how it is used. WeatherBug has been asking for creative uses of their API. I’d love to see more desktop programs that can do cool things, like you can with Google Earth. It would also be really cool to see like a mash-up of severe weather videos and/or sites.

If you know of any other cool desktop programs or websites related to weather or storms, make sure you drop me a line. And of course… with all the severe weather in the US right now, I hope you stay safe.

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iPhone Weather Apps I'd Like to See

Given that WeatherBug is looking for new apps that call their API, I thought I’d throw out a few ideas for what kind of Weather apps I’d like to have on my iPhone:

  1. Weather Wallpaper – changes the iPhone’s wallpaper every X minutes to the latest radar image and forecast for the current geo-location (or ZIP code).
  2. Riders on the Storm – aggregates storm chasers that are broadcasting live at that moment. This is assuming we could get some kind of live video feed working through the iPhone.
  3. Fair Weather Friends – displays a contact’s current weather conditions in their address book profile, or potentially in another app that can access the address book.
  4. ThunderClap – measures the distance of lightning from your current location. User would tap one button when they see lightning strike, then tap again when they hear the thunder clap. Based on input, the app should be able to do the rest based on the algorithm. Or, per the suggestion of “pflodin,” the camera could watch for a flash of light, then the microphone could listen for thunder and calculate the distance automatically.
  5. Comparometer – compares which cities on Earth are warmer, colder, wetter, etc. than your current location. Cities would then cross-link to their location on the iPhone’s Google Maps.
  6. Cloudopedia – allows you to take a photo of a cloud, then run it through a comparison engine and give you an idea of what type of cloud it actually is. Barring advanced features, maybe just a list of cloud types.
  7. WeatherLine – shows you the weather conditions on that day for the past 25 years (in your specific geo-location or ZIP code), highlighting the highest and lowest metrics recorded over that period of time.
  8. Virtual Rainstick – Accesses the accelerometer and makes sounds like a rainstick when you flip or shake the iPhone. Also shows you statistics about rain – where it’s currently falling, who is getting the most right now, etc.
  9. Weather Stylist – user defines temperature tolerances for what they consider to be shorts weather, umbrella weather, jacket weather, sunglasses weather, etc. Then, at a moment’s glance, they can see an indication as to what kind of clothing or equipment they might need in the coming hours / days. User should be able to define their own weather-centric accessories.
  10. Watch Warning – alerts the user to any watches or warnings for geo-located area upon launch (or ZIP code).

What kind of weather apps would you like to see (using the WeatherBug API anywhere, or on the iPhone)?

Severe Weather can Strike Anytime, Anywhere

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TJ, DasFamiliar and KY_Wildcat are not only halfops in my live chat room, they are also all Storm Spotters. With severe weather season already upon us, they put together these tips to help keep you safe. As of March 20, 2008, the Storm Prediction Center states that there have been at least 464 reports of tornadoes for this year alone. The season has only yet to begin. Many people, including geeks, never really give weather a second thought in their daily lives while going on about their business. It only takes seconds for the skies to darken and sirens to blare. Warnings are issued before many realize the world around them is about to become very dangerous. Even as connected as geeks are, even we can be also caught off guard by nature’s fury.

  • Make sure you have a NOAA Weather Radio with S.A.M.E. technology. These radios are life savers, especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather at night. These radios contain loud alarms that can even wake you up in the next room. With one of these radios, you can set it to sound for only counties you want to be warned for avoiding the false alarms when severe weather is occuring in another county near by. The greatest thing about these radios is that they don’t just warn you of severe storms. They can warn you of tornadoes, hurricanes, severe storms, civil defense emergencies, earthquakes, and much more. Weather radios are cheap these days and can be found at any retail store.
  • Know the difference between a watch and a warning. This is one of the most common mistakes people make during severe weather. People often tend to think that a watch is far worse than a warning… when it is not. It’s the other way around. A watch merely means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather. These are often issued about 3-4 hours ahead of the projected time the severe weather is expected to occur. This is the time when you should be using to prepare yourself/family and have your safety plan in place. BE READY TO TAKE ACTION IF A WARNING IS ISSUED!!! A warning is the time when you should take action. A warning is issued 20-25 minutes before the severe weather is expected to impact the warned area (but sometimes the severe weather may hit the area before the warning can be put out. IE: Atlanta, GA – March 15 hitting the Georgia Dome and CNN Building). A warning is decided on many factors, one being usually the storm is detected on radar reaching severe limits as determined by the National Weather Service, along with reports of confirmed severe weather events coming from storm spotters.
  • Know the basic rules that could save your life. First things first, DO NOT PANIC. Having a panic attack is the worst and last thing you would ever want to do during severe weather. Once a warning is issued, sirens blare, and the tv goes off air… DO NOT ignore it. This is the time to put your safety plan into action. The safety plan should consist of an immediate safe place where you and your family can seek shelter from the storm. Now, finding this safe place is not as easy as sitting next to the TV and waiting for it to pass. Your safety spot should be in the center of your house, on the lowest level, and as far from windows as you can get. (One guideline to remember, put as many walls as possible between you and the severe weather.) The best place to be during severe weather is in an underground basement, closet, or in a bathroom. If you have time, take blankets, pillows, or even mattresses with you to protect yourself from flying debris. NEVER… I repeat.. NEVER be in a vehicle or a mobile home during a tornado warning. Most deaths from tornadoes occur in Mobile Homes. If a tornado warning is put into effect and you are on the road.. get out and take cover in a ditch if no other substantial structure is available. LEAVE YOUR MOBILE HOMES!!
  • Turn around, Don’t drown! This is the slogan from the National Weather Service to let people know not to drive into flooding waters. Flooding and flash flooding is the #1 killer when it comes to severe weather. It only takes 2 feet of water to float a vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you drive a heavy, lifted truck. It only takes 6 inches of rapid moving water to sweep a person off their feet, and a foot of water to sweep a large truck off the road. When flooding is occuring, be careful on the streets. DO NOT drive around any flood barricades! Also, try to keep young ones away from creeks, rivers, and any rapid water ways.
  • Lightning is the second deadliest aspect of severe weather. Lighting is very dangerous, as it can generate over 1 billion volts and carry up to 40,000 amps. This is enough electricity to stop the heart in one second. The tempature can reach up to 54,000°F. When severe weather is occuring, sometimes more than a billion lightning strikes can occur. Never be outside when it is lightning. Lightning tends to strike the tallest object and follow a path of least resistance. A good structure with grounding will protect you. Staying in a car will also protect you. NEVER stand under a tree or tall object and do not be out on the water while it is lightning. Also, being the geeks we are, protect your electronics. Turn them off and unplug them… better safe then sorry. Another informational tidbit is that in a tornadic storm, the more intense the lightning is near the tornadic rotation is a good indicator of a possible tornado in the area.
  • Have your safety supplies in a waterproof container and ready for quick response. Safety supplies should be right up there with the safety plan. Remember, if you are struck by severe weather, you may be safe.. but if your house is gone, what do you have to show for it? Nothing… you have nothing with you.. nothing to help you survive. Now, as bad as this sounds… it’s has happened countless times all over the world. This is why a safety supplies bucket is extremely important. Some of these supplies should include a flashlight with extra batteries, a portable radio with spare batteries, a first aid kit (for those bumps, bruises and other emergency needs. You should also include some of those commonly used medications such as Asprin, or other things that you would find in everyone’s medicine cabinet). You should also have at least a three day supply of non-perishable foods and water. Don’t forget to bring along a manual can opener as well. Cash and emergency credit cards should also be in the supplies. You never know when you will need the emergency cash to get basic items for your family. Always pack some extra clothes. These should be loose fitting, and comfortable. Also include a pair of comfortable shoes so you can scurry thru the rubble and also help those in need. Often times, there will be no electricity after a severe storm… that means no lights. In this case, it’s a good idea to have candles and matches in your kit, as well. (WARNING: if there is even a hint of a gas smell in the air, DO NOT! DO NOT light the candle.) A great source of light to have… even as funny as it sounds… are the glo sticks. All of these supplies should be in quick responsive reach, and also should be in a spot where the entire family can get it if need be.
  • After the severe weather has passed, if there is any damage, notify your insurance company as soon as possible. You will want to notify them so they can begin assessing the damage and get you into temporary housing. Also, please do not go back into the damaged area if it is an unstable structure. Let the local fire department or emergency crews handle that. So many people have actually died going back into their severely damaged house, only to have it collapse on them.

Many people think, “This can’t happen to me”. Too often, the same sad story is played out time after time and people are often left asking why? Why me? When severe weather is in the area, take it seriously. Don’t get so caught up in the moment of what you are doing that you don’t stop to take a look at what is going on with the weather. It can take years for someone to build a life for themselves, but it just takes mere seconds for mother nature to take it all away. Geek or not, don’t be caught off guard this year by severe weather. Don’t let yourself be put in a position where your asking yourself “What should I do?” as the walls of your home are torn away by the oncoming storm. Prepare now… before it happens to you. Remember, severe weather can happen at any place at any time… and it doesn’t just have to be in the United States. Severe weather can happen anywhere in the world, and at any time. Now is the time to prepare.

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