There’s a huge snowstorm bearing down on the Eastern half and Northern parts of the United States, and if you’re nearby, here are the best tools to see if you’re in its path and how much snow you’ll get. Even if you’re not, or you’re a couch-bound storm chaser, these weather tools will come in handy.
The prediction map for the amount of snow those of us on the east coast will get is anywhere from “light” to “blizzard,” not to mention the potential flooding afterward. It’s not just us out east either; similar snowfall has fallen (or will fall) across the northern parts of the United States too. While this might be the first big snow of the season around here, it certainly won’t be the last. With that in mind, here are some tools you can use to play amateur storm chaser from the comfort of your couch, office, or smartphone.
Whether you’re wondering if you’re in the path of this storm or some other storm, The National Weather Service (NWS) interactive map will tell you everything you need to know about your region. Just click on your region on the map, and you’ll zoom down to a customized forecast for your area. Click again on the new, smaller map that appears and you’ll get an even more detailed forecast for your specific area, including current conditions, 7-day forecast, a detailed forecast, and more.
You can also click to see specific weather reports from your local forecast office, which includes temperature and conditions (including sky and precipitation conditions) from weather stations at nearby schools, airports, or military bases. If all you want to know is whether or not this storm—or any storm—will come bearing down on you, this is the fastest way to find out.
Bookmark Only the Best Weather Sites
If you want updated forecasts and more information, sure, you could check weather sites that eagerly name storms or run b-roll footage of cars spinning into light poles. But if you actually want to know how much snow you’re going to get and when, you need better sources. Here are our favorites:
Weather Underground: If you’re a weather nerd and love more data than the National Weather Service provides at a blush, Weather Underground is worth a look. The site offers live regional and national radar, weather alerts for your location, and of course, the ever-popular Wundermap, a live, data-heavy, and absolutely packed with information weather map. The Wundermap can be customized with layers for the information you want, including live radar, current conditions and temperatures, regional precipitation, satellite data, severe weather, and yes, even precipitation start times, so you know exactly when the storm will hit you.
Forecast.io: Okay, so all the weather nerdery isn’t for you. In that case, Forecast.io offers a simpler, more direct approach to your forecast, with just the information most useful to you: current conditions, what the next hour will look like, your five day forecast, and of course, any serious or severe weather alerts you need to be aware of. If you are interested in the nitty gritty, just scroll down (the page automatically detects your location) to see detailed forecast graphs for your area.
There are tons of other weather sites and resources out there to check, but these are our picks for deskside storm chasers and worried commuters alike. They won’t let you down, and you have three great options: the official option, the data-heavy-weather-nerdy option, and the simple, just-the-facts option (in that order!)
Track the Weather Live, in Real Time
Even if you’re not a data nerd, you might still like watching the storm roll in, live, in real time. Me too. I turn to the NWS for detailed forecasts and the full text of weather alerts and severe weather warnings, but I keep Weather Underground’s Wundermap up in a tab.
It refreshes regularly as conditions change, and it’s great to watch regional weather move in and out of my area as it’s happening. I can also tweak the filters on the side (think Google Maps’ “layers” for traffic) to see satellite imagery and cloud cover, storm reports, moving air fronts or high or low pressure, and more. I can even tweak the radar view to show me storm tracking, so I can see if that big purple blob of precipitation is headed towards my house, or somewhere north or south of me.
For something a little more straightforward, try LiveWXRadar.com. At a glance, you can see weather overlays for Google Maps, and scroll down to see NWS maps. On the left side of the page, there’s a directory for TV stations in the United States, so you can peer through the radar that your TV meteorologists pride themselves on. Similarly, the Real-Time Weather Data hub, operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research is another great resource if you’re interested in real-time, constantly-updated satellite imagery from NOAA’s GOES weather satellites (in visible cloud cover, water vapor in the air, and even infared versions!), live radar data, and more. Again, a lot of this information is for weather fans and data-lovers, but if that’s you, you can get lost in the menus and view options.
Take Your Storm Tracking On the Go
If you’re sitting at a desk all day, you can keep a weather site or active map open in a tab. If you’re running around trying to make sure that you get to the store before everyone else buys all the milk and toilet paper before the storm, you’ll need something you can take with you on your smartphone. Dark Sky is our favorite for the iPhone, and 1Weather is our pick for Android. Both apps offer live radar, push notifications in the event of severe weather or other weather alerts, current conditions and forecasts, and well, way more information than you may need when you’re out and about, but all the right features to stay informed on the go.
Since we’ve recommended it on the desktop, Weather Underground is also available for both iOS and Android, if you’d like to continue the theme. Of course, all the other contenders are available too: Weatherbug, Accuweather, The Weather Channel, and so on. They’re serviceable options too, just not our favorites.
One of the best tips I can offer anyone interested in following local weather is to keep up with a trusted meteorologist (or team of them) on social media. This way you’ll have up-to-date information that won’t require you to download or check a special app, or even keep a weather map running in your browser at all times (even if it’s a pretty cool map.)
Beyond the NWS though, check with your local newspapers or broadcast TV stations too. For example, in the Washington DC area, we have the Capital Weather Gang, who have a great blog at the Washington Post, but are even better on Twitter.
If this storm is bearing down on you as much as it is on me, you might be obsessive enough to keep a radar map open in a tab and full-screen it like a screen saver (not that I’d ever do that, of course.) If you’re reading this from a warm and sunny locale, I’m jealous, but make note anyway—eventually there’ll be severe weather in your neck of the woods, and these services can help you keep an eye on it and stay safe.