May 2: Vehicle upgrades and forecast update
Event Vehicle Upgrades: We've got some exciting developments in the works for the Storm Highway chase vehicle this week. Stay tuned for photos of the completed setup! Our budget is allowing for some cool new technology that we'll be implementing for this year's trip. With the new upgrades, we will have the following items operational:
- Mobile cellular WIFI - Our vehicle will be equipped with cellular internet access whenever we are within a digital cell coverage area. We will have a WIFI router to share this connection with anyone near our vehicle, both while we are stationary or in motion.
- Second computer mount - A second Jotto computer desk for the second row seats will be installed in the center command console. This will allow a second semi-permanent laptop computer to be operated for the two people riding in the back seats. This second laptop will be operating GPS and will also
serve as the mobile WIFI web server.
- GPS navigation - Two computers will be equipped with GPS navigation receivers, one plotting our location on mapping software and the other on radar software.
- Satellite radar and weather data - We will be running the WxWorx Mobile Threat Net system for live radar and weather data fed directly to the vehicle.
- Live webcam - We will be feeding a live webcam image from the front of the vehicle over our internet connection to the Storm Highway web site's Live Event Tracker page every few minutes.
- Live GPS tracker - We will be broadcasting our live GPS position to the Storm Highway web site's Live Event Tracker page every few minutes.
- Additional LCD monitors - Three 6.5" LCD monitors will be installed in the vehicle to allow all passengers to easily observe radar and GPS navigation, fed from the primary and secondary computers. Two monitors will be installed on the second-row headrests for the third-row passengers, and the third monitor up front to allow the driver and front passenger to view GPS navigation information. A DVD player will be switchable into the rear monitor feeds to give passengers some entertainment on the long drives.
- Mobile WIFI web site - In addition to offering WIFI internet access, we will have a mobile-hosted version of Storm Highway accessable from the hotspot. Our mobile web site will have information on our trip, a copy of our storm season blog, photos and video from the 2006 and past years' trips, and some basic info about storms and observing. Anyone with a WIFI-capable laptop near our vehicle will be able to access the internet and our mobile web site, even while driving down the highway next to us. The mobile web site will be hosted on a computer onboard the vehicle, so it will be accessable even if our cellular internet connection is unavailable.
- Upgraded command console - Our communcations and power console from last season has been given a second level, with a power strip, camera chargers and a Jotto desk for a second laptop computer.
- Rooftop storage - Since we've reconfigured the vehicle for six people (driver and five passengers), we had to look to the roof for luggage space and additional storage. A large Thule rooftop cargo carrier will give us interior space for the people and the gear needed for the trip.
We're working to install and configure the above items this week, and hope to have everything operational by Saturday. Stay tuned for photos!
Forecast update for May 2: This first week of May is offering some acceptably decent opportunities for the Plains, but we've chosen to hold out for some time later. While a worrisome eastern trough is expected to set up later this week, long-range model guidance seems to suggest that more favorable patterns could begin setting up around May 9. So, we could be on the road westbound by Sunday, May 7. Our current budget now allows for a two-week expedition. Stay tuned!
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