Today on BisManApps.com, we are launching a new semi-regular feature highlighting notable bloggers, their hobbies, passions, and most of all, their favorite apps. In this premier post, we are talking to my co-worker and fellow Apple geek, Erin Huntimer, who blogs at hannoverskies.com. She’s a certified weather spotter in North Dakota.
Thanks for talking with us, Erin. Tell us little about yourself.
I’m originally from Stanton, ND. I now live near Hannover, ND, with my husband and daughter. We raise purebred black Angus cattle and other furry and feathered friends. I’ve been working at Basin Electric Power Cooperative in Bismarck, North Dakota, for 10 years, where I’m a staff writer/editor. I earned my undergrad degree in communications from the University of Mary. I’m back again, studying for my MBA in Energy Management.
Weather watching is my hobby. I’m a trained weather spotter for the National Weather Service Bismarck office. I run a personal weather station that contributes weather data to a worldwide database operated by NOAA, the parent organization to the National Weather Service, through the Cooperative Weather Observers Program. If you check out Google Earth, you’ll find my personal weather station pinned west of Hannover. My call sign is DW6873.
I don’t post as often as I’d like to, especially now that I’m in grad school. But I consider my website a big geek victory for me. I built it on WordPress.org and I host it myself through Go Daddy. (And no, Chris, I cannot get you Danica Patrick’s autograph.) My weather station data streams to the website. I have now figured out how to post quick weather updates to my blog using Tweetdeck and Iffft. I’m pretty proud of all of that &endash; I’m entirely self-taught.
North Dakota is known for its sudden, extreme weather. Do you have any sort of specialized equipment you use?
I have a Davis Vantage Vue Integrated Sensor Suite and Console that streams data via WeatherLink IP software. The sensor suite is on a post in my back yard, about seven feet in the air, and clear of any buildings or large trees. It is solar-powered, and measures and logs wind speeds, temperature, rainfall, humidity and barometric pressure. The console in my house collects the data, and measures indoor conditions as well.
Yes, yes, I know. Any Kmart weather station will do all that. What’s different is that this weather station collects and stores weather data, and then software sends it to the nationwide database automatically every three minutes. The data is also streamed to an automatically generated website, www.weatherlink.com/user/erinrae. I’m also integrated into Weather Underground’s personal weather station network. You can find me out there as call sign KNDNEWSA2, or labeled as Rural Oliver County, Hannover.
I know you’re a fan of Reed Timmer and Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers. I’ve heard you describe yourself as a “storm chaser chaser”, and I love reading your tweets every time Reed makes one of his “intercepts.” What got you interested in the weather as a hobby?
I have to brag. I have two chaser intercepts under my belt this season, which is more than most storm chasers can say. I “intercepted” a team of hail researchers, and storm chasers from Saskatchewan. In both cases I pulled over my car randomly to talk to them. I’m sure they think I’m a weirdo.
Anyway, to get back to the question at hand, I’ve been interested in weather for as long as I can remember. I spent many years in a trailer house in parts of North Dakota that weathermen aren’t necessarily attentive to. I taught myself to track storms on paper maps as a kid, and to watch the skies for clues that things were going to turn ugly.
As an adult, after a few close calls with bad storms and a newborn at home, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went to weather spotter training so I could learn more. I got a laptop with DSL so I could track radar images myself. And finally, I found my weather station – a weather geek’s bliss.
What is the most amazing weather phenomenon you’ve witnessed?
I have witnessed one tornado and two cold-air funnels, as well as too many hail storms to mention. The tornado dropped out of the sky on an overcast day while I was at a demolition derby in Center. I uttered a few sounds that didn’t sound like words, I turned, and I ran. My boyfriend at the time (now husband), grabbed me to ask where I was going, to which I responded: “TORNADO!” I still didn’t really know where I was going — just not staying there. I later learned that the tornado was actually about 30 miles to the west. There were no storms in the area. A house and garage south of Beulah were damaged.
The fact that the Weather Service knew nothing about this damaging tornado further fueled my desire to learn to watch the skies on my own.
You’re a certified weather spotter in North Dakota. If someone wants to become a spotter, what do they need to know?
Anyone can become a spotter, but the National Weather Service has particular needs for spotters in rural areas and areas that are in the outer reaches of the radar’s capability. Weather spotters provide information about wind, rain, hail, etc., that can help meteorologists coordinate their warnings. My home is northwest of Bismarck. The weather service loves me, because often what hits my place will hit Bismarck about 30-40 minutes later.
Each spring, local National Weather Service offices reach out to communities to conduct Skywarn weather spotter training. Many attendees are HAM radio operators and local EMS, but the sessions are free and open to the public. Over the course of 90 minutes, a meteorologist discusses severe weather, how it forms, how to spot it, etc. They also discuss the kind of information they need from spotters and why.
I’ve taken my daughter KayLee with me three or four times. She’s my sidekick.
You own an iPhone 4s and a new iPad. What are your favorite apps for monitoring the weather?
I have nine weather apps on my phone & iPad, but I primarily use four of them:
- iMapWeather Radio: I recommend this app to everyone. In the event of severe weather in areas defined by you or your current location, your phone will “wake up” and produce an audible alarm to alert you to any potentially dangerous situations. The app also includes a nice radar. At $9.99, the app is expensive, but remember, it could save your life, especially if you don’t have a regular weather radio, or if you’re like me and your home weather radio doesn’t pick up the signal most of the time.
- WeatherAlerts: This is similar and cheaper than iMap, but less customizable and the interface isn’t as user-friendly. It also lacks a local radar.
- NOAA Hi-Def Radar: This simple radar allows for good zooms and provides storm tracks, which can help project where particularly strong cells are heading.
- WeatherUnderground: This is actually a shortcut to their website that I saved to my home screen more of a home screen link to their website than anything. It gives a nice snapshot of current weather conditions and the radar. It’s my old standby since I’m familiar with it.
That’s a great list. I added iMapWeather on my iPhone based on your recommendation (and the promo code you found for me). It’s much handier than my flaky analog weather radio.
Thank you again for chatting with us. Before you go, do you have any social media handles you’d like to share so people can follow your weather spotting adventures?
I’m also on Pintrest & Etsy!
That’s all for this first edition of BisManApps.com’s Blogger Spotlight. Be sure to check out Erin’s blog at hannoverskies.com and check back with us soon for more Appy-bloggy goodness.
BisMan Apps is North Dakota’s only iOS-centric blog, written and performed by Chris VandeVenter, aka dcmacnut, an iPhone-addicted photographer, Apple geek, and self-proclaimed King of the Internet. He’s kind of a big deal on Twitter. Or so he thinks.