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Do-It-Yourself Weather

Do-It-Yourself Weather

Travel
By Rob Lovitt
posted: 01/17/2001

Here's a riddle: What do arthritic joints, roosting birds, and the local weatherman have in common? Answer: They can accurately predict the weather.

Okay, if you're sitting in a roadside snowdrift because the local weather wizard missed yesterday's winter-storm warning, that may not be too funny. But there's still reason to smile. Thanks to the power of the Internet, you can now get a lot of great weather information yourself.

Tap into the National Weather Service (NWS) and you can get actual images from various satellites circling the globe. Click on one of the three commercial companies that the feds use to disseminate their data and you can choose from all sorts of customized forecasts. Combine one or both with the local avalanche center's forecast and we're talking ski-specific details (snowfall, water content, wind speed, freezing level) that rarely make the five o'clock news.

My favorite site is one run by Unisys, which uses computer models and multicolored radar loops to predict precipitation up to 48 hours out. When the color of an approaching storm goes yellow (translation: up to 12-18 inches of snow), I'm gone.

A few words to the wise, though. Some sites are so technical, they're only for hardcore weather weenies; others are no better than the toupeed guy on the tube. Note, too, that the government's data-dissemination contracts are set to expire soon, which means even more data will be available directly to the public. In the meantime, check out the following sites and know that Dylan was right all along: You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

weather.gov
The National Weather Service's answer to one-stop shopping, weather.gov is a good way to access the government's entire weather-analysis system. We're talking everything from global satellite imagery to the location of your local NWS office.

weather.unisys.com
One of the few sites that offers free computer modeling of impending weather. Go to the Eta Model Forecasts, enlarge the first map, and run a loop. Voilà! If it's incoming, you'll see it heading your way.

wx.com
Part of the Data Transmission Network (like Unisys, a contracted data provider), this site offers good detail and several interactive features (e.g., weather forecasts by zip code) and resort-specific ski reports.

intellicast.com
The third contracted provider, Intellicast features tons of recreation-oriented weather info, along with capsule summaries of many resorts. Too many pop-up ads get annoying quickly, though. (Imodium A-D? Not exactly the dumps we're interested in, guys.)

avalanche.org
A major clearinghouse for avalanche information, this site links to the many regional avalanche-forecasting sites around North America. Specific forecasts tend to be low tech (i.e., text only), but for mountain weather, they're the best accounts available.

weatheroffice.com
As the Canadian answer to the National Weather Service, Environment Canada offers recent weather data and some good animated imagery on a free-subscription basis.

weather.com
The Weather Channel on the web is about what you'd expect-better at the big picture than the local scene. It does offer forecasts up to seven days out, but not with enough detail to plan your ski day. At least there are no toupees.

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