View Full Version : Best way to track weather/traffic along the route?

06-13-2006, 06:52 AM
Need some ideas on the best way to track weather/traffice along our cross country trip. I know I can try and tune in on local radio stations but that may not be the best way. I do have a PDA/Phone with internet access but I'm not sure how well it will do while driving. If you know any websites that would be best please inform me. Thanks!

Mark Sedenquist
06-13-2006, 08:47 AM
Need some ideas on the best way to track weather/traffice along our cross country[ trip. I would get a NOAA weather band radio and monitor the weather that way. These seven-channel radios broadcast the local weather 24/7. Most CB radios inlcude these channels. (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/dashboarding/CB-Radios.htm) In addition, you can always obtain current info from the State DOT or 511 programs. More links and ideas are here on the RTA road conditions page. (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/links/conditions.htm)


06-13-2006, 09:09 AM
excellent, thanks Mark

RoadTripper Brad
06-13-2006, 01:23 PM
A website that might be of use to you:

http://mobile.srh.noaa.gov (National Weather Service) for local radar images, etc. You might want to bookmark it on your phone or PDA, its a long one. Although, as always, its recommended to stop driving to check this, but at least you have the option to see whats going on in addition to hearing it.

Traffic sites are hard to come by though. My verizon broadband phone comes with some pre-book marked for metro areas, but thats it.

With the "mobile domain", .mobi TLD now availble for registration (its in its sunrise right now, general registration begins in August), I expect to see more sites that offer content to mobile internet soon.


Mark Sedenquist
06-13-2006, 01:44 PM

That is a cool site. Are you actually able to view radar returns that way your phone?


RoadTripper Brad
06-13-2006, 02:19 PM
Yes, you can even get the radar loop. Even weather satellite images and their loops. The problem, of course, is quality. My cell phone has a decent sized screen, but its not very detailed. It's the same image that's availble at nws.noaa.gov, only squished down. Atleast thats what it looks like right now, some local regions may have a better radar image for mobile phones.

There is enough detail on the radar image/loop to where you can make out state lines, major interstates, etc, and see the relationship of radar returns to those. The city it pulls up for the weather data, such as Phoenix, AZ, was placed in the center.

The satelite image from the NWS is, however, VERY good for a mobile phone.

Just for kicks, I decided to see if the Weather Channel offered a mobile service... and they do. By entering weather.com into your mobile internet browser, you can access TWC, and it's radar maps and satelite images.

I'm looking at the radar image for Phoenix, and while it doesn't have a looping image, the quality is FAR greater for this particular phone. The satelite image is good as well, but I think I personally prefer the one availble through the NWS mobile site.

Comparison when viewed through a Motorola E815 Broadband Phone with Verizon Service*
mobile.srh.weather.gov | weather.com (mobile service)

Still Radar Image: FAIR | Good
High Res. Image: FAIR | n/a
Radar Loop: FAIR | n/a
Satelite Image: EXCELLENT (regional)| Good (regional/national)
Watches/Warnings: YES | YES

You might find your particular phone or PDA displays the NWS images better. If this is the case, then the NWS site does by far offer more information.

My next phone is (hopefully) going to be a motorola smartphone or blackberry, which should offer more detailed images.


RoadTripper Brad
06-13-2006, 02:41 PM
I also found a few programs offered for download by Verizon for certain phones. About 6 different 'weather' programs are availble, including "the weather channel". I downloaded the 10 minute free trial for three, one geared towards pilots the other two are normal ones. *ALL require a subscription for continued use.

WeatherScout offers VERY good mobile radar loops, Satellite IR Cloud loops, visual cloud loops, fish and game forcasts, Dept. of Natual Resources information for your location, and other information.

Pilot MyCast 4 uses airport codes (PHX for Phoenix Sky Harbor, SEA for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and EAT for Wenatchee Pangborn Memorial Airport). Pilot MyCast 4 offers the same radar and satelite as WeatherScout, however, it offers information specific to pilots (turbulance forcasts, etc.).

Also decided to try out a program called "MyCast", again very similar to the programs listed above.

I would recommend checking with your wireless service provider or online for dowloadable programs for tracking weather via your mobile device.

06-13-2006, 03:07 PM
Hey Brad,

Thanks very much for all the information. I'll be sure to try them on my phone. I also stumbled on an application for the pocket pc (pda/phone) that downloads weather radar from NWS. I'll probably suspect it works like the website you mentioned above.


Mark Sedenquist
06-13-2006, 03:16 PM
Wow, I had no idea that this form of programming could be delivered to PDAs on the road. Very cool.

BUT! There is a huge caveat here -- the user must be in a network where the third-generation (3G) network is actually working. In most states, if you are within 1/2 mile of a Interstate highway there is better than a 60% chance that it will work. But if you are on US-50 in the middle of Nevada or hundreds of other places in America -- your best source of weather will still be "a wet finger" (for wind direction) and "your eyes" for everything else.

But thanks for these tips!


06-14-2006, 09:43 AM
I've not used one before, but I'd love to give it a try...

Most of the higher-end GPS's have weather and traffic integrations that will allow you to avoid these areas on your route.

For an example, check out the Garmin StreetPilot 2820. (http://www.garmin.com/products/sp2820/)

As a side note, weather and traffic information is only available in select cities; but I would assume most major cities would be included.

06-14-2006, 09:53 AM
Thanks RoadTripper for your reply. That Garmin product has amazing capabilities and unfortunately I have already purchased one that only does traffic. I found out too late that I had to purchase a seperate piece (GM10/11) that I have to attached to the unit. With some of the great links provided, I should be able to accomplish the same with internet access on my phone. Even if I have to stop under a bridge and wait for a tornado to past by. LOL, just kidding about that last part.. I read that it was bad to do this.

Mark Sedenquist
06-14-2006, 10:00 AM
Even if I have to stop under a bridge and wait for a tornado to past by. LOL, just kidding about that last part.. I read that it was bad to do this.Phew! It drives me kookoo when I see people doing that -- the sideways wind speed from tornadoes often increases exponentially under bridges-- it is as effective as covering oneself in sheep's blood and then going swiming in shark-infested waters. If find yourself in a situation where outrunning a tornado is not an option -- get below ground in a storm shelter or get out of your car, find a ditch and lay face-down protecting the back of your neck with your hands. You want to make your body as low and as flat as you can.


06-14-2006, 10:36 AM
When I was searching for weather tracking info, I just so happened to read a topic on what to do when your driving and are in a tornado's path. What I read is exactly what you are saying. Many of us SoCalers have no experience/education when it comes to crossing tornado alley of the midwest.

Mark Sedenquist
06-14-2006, 11:21 AM
When I was searching for weather tracking info, I just so happened to read a topic on what to do when your driving and are in a tornado's path. What I read is exactly what you are saying. I have been in life-threatening tornado-caused situations twice in my travels. In both instances, I didn't know what the appropriate response was and would have found it nearly impossible to believe that I could be safer out of my vehicle. But I was lucky both times and suffered no injuries. You will read accounts of those who have been in the path and they all describe the sound -- believe me it is much worse in person. There are two excellent books that deal with the appropriate responses to weather events. I recommend them both -- especially this one: Surviving Extreme Weather, by Gerrie McCall (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/read/Surviving-Extreme-Weather.htm) and Mark's book "Big Weather: Chasing Tornadoes in the Heart of America" (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/read/Big-Weather.htm) makes for great bed-time reading!

During my second tornado adventure, I was in a large Class A RV and I did pause in an underpass near Detroit -- not to escape the wind, but because I couldn't see the road anymore and we were being hit with all kinds of debris and HUGE hailstones. A car slid by us upside-down and spinning, a bus bench flew past the windshield -- you get the idea -- it was nuts. I like extreme weather and frequently chase storms, but this was a little too much up-and-close for me!


RoadTripper Brad
06-14-2006, 12:18 PM
...Mark's book "Big Weather: Chasing Tornadoes in the Heart of America" (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/read/Big-Weather.htm) ...

... I like extreme weather and frequently chase storms,...

And people say I'm nuts because I want to do some storm chasing! And not just tornadoes either... hurricanes.

I'll have to take a look at that book, Mark. It sounds very interesting.

I just started to do a Google search on Mobile Weather Stations... quite a fancy array of gadgets, but they're more than a little out of my budget. Besides, I'd have to buy a bigger vehicle to mount them on!


06-14-2006, 12:21 PM
Oh my!!! I do not even want to get close to something like what you experienced. It reminds me of this script from Twister:

{Suddenly, a cow flies past, in front of them!}
Jo: Cow.
Melissa:{Into Phone} I gotta go, Julie, we got cows!! {Hangs up}
{Cow flies past again.}
Jo: Another cow.
Bill: Actually, I think that was the same one.

I appreciate the recommended books you referenced. Thanks!

Midwest Michael
06-14-2006, 02:32 PM
I certainly haven't had any stories like that from on the road. I had to fight 70 mph striaght-line crosswinds driving through the plains once, but I've never encountered a tornado on a roadtrip.

I did have an F-1 one touch down less than a block away from my work a couple of years ago. The scariest - and most ironic - part is that I work in a building with a Dopplar Radar ball on top of a 1,000 foot tall tower in the parking lot.