The Red Cross Hurricane app is our go-to storm tracker this season

Plus more tips and tricks for using your phones during severe weather

We've got our first hurricane of the year — Arthur — and he's starting to make his way up the eastern seaboard. That means it's the perfect time to talk a bit, as we do every year, about how your smartphone can help out with the summer scourge.

This year, I'm using the Red Cross Hurricane app as my go-to tracker. There are a bunch of hurricane apps available in Google Play, but most of them just repurpose data from the National Hurricane Center. There's nothing wrong with that, but I can visit the NHC site for free. For those new to tropical weather, the Red Cross app also has a wealth of preparedness information, including what to do before, during and after a storm, traditional tracking maps, and shelter information. It's basically a one-stop app for severe storm information.

In addition to that app recommendation, let's also take a look at a few ways your smartphone can help you during a storm.

Tips for using your phone before, during and after a storm

  • Charge your phones. Now. Keep them charged. And once the storm starts, keep them off. You'll likely lose power at some point, and there's a good chance your local cell network will go down for a bit, even with generator backups.
  • Spare batteries. If you got 'em, make sure they're charged, too. If you still have time to get some, do it. Then make sure they're charged as well.
  • Car charger. Get one. Get a couple, actually.
  • While you still have power and internet access, be it on your phone or broadband, take advantage of features like instant uploading on Google+ or Dropbox or similar service to make sure those pictures get somewhere that can't be destroyed by the storm. Better to be safe than sorry in that case.
  • If you're worried about damage and don't have a traditional camera, use your phone to take a few pictures of your home and your belongings. It'll make insurance claims much easier, should it come to that.
  • After the storm, text messages may work best. If the network's up, it's going to be clogged, and calls might not go through. Text messages have a much better chance. Remember that if you're using Google Voice, it sends text messages through the traditional data channels and not SMS.
  • If you just have to use Instagram or some other picture-sharing service during a storm, don't use a damn filter. Folks wanna see what's happening, and filters don't help that.
  • Use apps like Evernote (opens in new tab) to help keep track of your emergency supplies.
  • Before the storm, use those gas-finder apps (opens in new tab) to track down the cheapest fuel. That won't help you with the lines, but it may save you a few bucks.
  • See if your phone can serve as an AM/FM radio, if you don't have any others around. (That's not out of the question in 2013. Some can do it, some can't.)
  • Apps from FEMA (opens in new tab) and the Red Cross (opens in new tab) can help you find shelters and other emergency information.
  • The official source for the latest storm info is from the National Hurricane Center. I also recommend Weather Underground, and Dr. Jeff Masters' blog.
Phil Nickinson
  • I am in Rocky Point, NC right now (outside Wilmington, not even 30 minutes from the beach) and it is raining badly now with thunder and the clouds are ominous as hell. They say the hurricane will hit early morning Friday but for now we get a bunch of wind and rain, we won't get flooded but them damn winds may tear everything up. I am not scared per say. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried. Posted via Droid Razr M on the Android Central App
  • For sure. Hang tight, be sure to have a few days' worth of water and food (that doesn't need to be cooked) on hand.
  • Thanks for the tips Phil. Here's hoping it won't be too bad. Posted via Droid Razr M on the Android Central App
  • Thanks for posting this. Sitting in Virginia Beach VA(border of NC and VA on the beach) and waiting to see how strong this will get. After being in a beach town that is constantly under hurricane warnings for 30+ years, we often forget little things like charging the phones or filling the gas tank due to complacency. Nice little reminder list.
    Posted via Android Central App from my red Nexus 5
  • Hey please be safe and careful make sure everything is charged up I will pray for all.
  • Great for prep, absolutely. The data in the tracker leaves something to be desired though... it needs more options like the ability to show spaghetti models, 3 OR 5 day cones, wind fields (the eye could be 50miles offshore but still beat the hell out of the coast), but most importantly, show correct date stamps on the storm points... Every point for Arthur says "Happened: 5/29/2014 {some random time}", even the Cat 1, when it didn't become a Cat 1 until midnight 6/3
  • The models are for weather nerds. I wish traditional media wouldn't show them so much.
  • I'm sitting in the runway in Miami now. It's thundering and raining. Not sure when we are taking off. Posted via Android Central App
  • On the topic of weather apps, is AtmosHere crashing for anyone else?
  • Ahh, The Pacific Northwest. People may make fun of our grey winters. But the worst we ever a grey winter. Never too hot, never too cold, never too dry....
  • Why does this app need just about every permission in the book? It may not have my contact list - I'm sick of giving this info out to anybody and everybody. There's another hurricane tracker on Google Play that has more downloads and asks for exactly one permission - location - which is all it should need.
  • Okay, this is kinda late, but one hint I never see mentioned but I find it helpful. That is to turn your air conditioner all the way down once the storm starts to hit that way when the electricity goes out your home stays cooler a little bit longer. It worked for me during Hurricane Ike and several tropical storms. Posted via Android Central App