Get to Know the Tennessee Valley Weather App!
Back in the summer, we launched the Tennessee Valley Weather App for Apple and Android devices. The app was built and is powered by Baron Weather in Huntsville, Alabama. They are the creators of the VIPIR and Lynx system that we use on air. We figured an overview of the app and a general walkthrough is long overdue; so, we are going to make an attempt to provide that for you. I, personally, am on a new Android device. I'm not sure how different it is for iPhone users, if it is any different at all. Having said that, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
This is the initial splash screen when you first open the app. When the app first launched, some Android users had a problem with the app freezing at this point. As far as we can tell, that was fixed early on. If you still have this problem, either update the app or uninstall and reinstall it. If the problem persists *after that*, we will see what we can do for you.
This is the main page you see when the app opens. These are the main components that make up the app. You see a direct link to our 24/7 Digital Weather Channel, the only LOCALLY operated 24/7 weather channel in the Tennessee Valley. You also see our StormTrack Doppler Radar, the latest current conditions and forecast, our skycams, the weather blog, weather alerts, our social media account, and there is even a live stream of the WLX Radio audio feed in case of a power or internet outage that may cause us to stop being able to broadcast on the digital channel.
Selecting the green circled button at the top left takes you to our app's main menu. From here, you will find a link to all the main features of the app. Notice the "Share Your Photos" option at the bottom of the menu. That allows you to share pictures with our team, geotagging them to the area where you took them. Those pictures are then automatically made available to our team in our Lynx graphics system so that we can put them on air. This is much easier for you and for us than sharing your pictures to us on our Facebook page because, in stormy weather, this method allows us to QUICKLY put your picture live on the air if we are doing live coverage, sometimes in less than a minute from when you send it to us!
The next feature we want to highlight is our StormTrack Doppler Radar. This is a completely interactive radar map that will show high resolution radar from anywhere in the United States. The blue push pin on the map is whatever your current location is so that you can see where you are in relative to the weather nearby. When in "radar mode" if you hit the triangular button toward the bottom left, this will play a loop of the radar data for the past 1 hour.
Please note: We removed the static image of the display of the live radar that came from our office. That caused a lot of confusion with our viewers with their being two radar links in the app and that the former live radar was just a real-time screen capture of the live radar located at the station. We have since completely removed that link in the app. If that still shows, be sure to run an update of the app to get the latest version.
But what if it's not radar that you want to look at on the map? What if you want to see the latest temperatures or wind speeds? What if you want to see "Future Radar"? The app has you covered there too! If you hit the icon at the top right that looks like three sheets of paper stacked on each other (we circled it in green in the screen capture of the interactive map), that takes you to this menu you see above. It has options to view not only the latest radar, but satellite data, current temperatures, current wind speeds, even Future Radar for the next 1 hour or the next 24 hours. It even has forecast future precipitation amounts. Clicking the Overlay option at the top allows you to overlay watches and warnings on the map, lightning data, storm reports, storm tracking algorithms, and many other things. And the Settings tab gives you options for visually controlling how some of the features on the map will display.
One of the most critical part of the weather app is the alert push notifications that are available. PLEASE NOTE that you must allow the app to be able to send you notifications when you install it, or change settings in your phone (not the app but your actual phone settings) afterward in order for you to be alerted by the app. This is critical for the app to be able to communicate alerts of dangerous weather to you. Otherwise, there is no sense in having it! The best practice is to allow the app to be able to detect your current location so that it can tailor the weather alerts around where you are. If you do so, those alerts follow you around, no matter where you are in the country! If you go out of state on a business trip or to the beach on vacation, the app follows you and will alert you wherever you are! You can also set locations you want to monitor and get alerts for by hitting the icon at the top right that looks like three vertical dots. You can have the app monitor your child's school, your place of work, a friend or relative's house, your place of worship. You can also set a home location if you'd prefer the app not read your GPS location (that is not shared, that is read digitally by the weather app), but the app works best when it is able to detect your current location.
On this screen, the app displays the alerts that are in effect for your chosen location(s) or your current location. You can set these to automatically be deleted after 7 days.
If you hit those three vertical dots at the top right of the previous screen, it takes you to this screen above. This is where you manage your location. You can see where you are able to add your custom locations there in the middle of the screen shot. If you hit the yellow arrow (it will point sideways when not selected, but down when it is selected), you will get the ability to set that particular location (whether it is your current location or a custom location) as a default, edit the type of alerts that particular location gets, and you will also be able to hide the location. You will even be able to check whether or not you want alerts for that location.
If you select that Edit button we have circled in green, it takes you to this screen...
From here, you can toggle on or off if you want to receive alerts for that location. You also have the option to select which types of alerts you do or do not want to receive. Anything with "NWS" is directly from the National Weather Service. This includes all warnings, watches, and advisories that they issue. There are also proprietary storm tracking alerts from the Baron storm tracking system (the same algorithms we have in our VIPIR radar system), lightning alerts, storms near your location alerts, and even alerts that we the weather team send directly to you. If you want to keep a particular alert type turned on, leave it checked... if not, uncheck it.
So that the app can effectively communicate dangerous and potentially life-threatening weather alerts to you, we ask that you at least keep these yellow highlighted alerts turned ON. The NWS Tornado Warning and NWS Severe Thunderstorm Warning are self-explanatory. These are the official warnings that come from the National Weather Service.
The "Message From Trained Personnel" is where you will receive messages directly from our weather team. We don't use them often, but we use them religiously when the need arises. We may send you an alert that we are going on live for a severe weather update on the channel in a few minutes. We may alert you to something suspicious we see on our live radar and there's not currently an official warning, but we need you to be alert. We would also send this to push to you the rare and extremely urgent "Tornado Emergency" message that's issued within a tornado warning when there's a confirmed large, violent tornado headed toward a populated area.
The "Twisting Storm Approaching" is another alert we ask that you keep turned on. This is created by the Baron storm detection and tracking algorithms that make up our VIPIR radar system. PLEASE NOTE that the "twisting storm alert" doesn't automatically mean that there is a tornado. This is triggered when the radar algorithms detect significant wind shear within a thunderstorm. Sometimes that does represent rotation that could potentially be a tornado, but at other times it may be straight-line wind or an otherwise turbulent storm. The alert is designed to give you a head's up to an approaching storm that you need to pay particular attention to. It doesn't always mean there is a tornado, but it might help you stay alert to the few that we get every now and again that spin up and go away before a warning can officially be issued. In that alert, you will also see a BTI number. That is the Baron Tornado Index. It's a ranking of 0-10 on the likelihood of that storm (based on both radar and the environment that it's in) being able to produce a tornado. The higher the number, the more possible/likely it is for that storm to be dangerous.
There are other alerts for lightning within 15 miles of your location, storms approaching your location, "Dangerous Storm Approaching" which might mean several things: very heavy rain, gusty winds, very frequent lightning, or hail. That alert may also give a BTI number, but it does NOT automatically mean that there is a tornado. If you're driving you may want to make sure NWS Flash Flood Warning is toggled on, but if you're staying home, it might not be as important to you, in particular, to have it toggled on... especially if you are asleep. This is where the customization of this app is so powerful and handy.
We hope this overview of the Tennessee Valley Weather App is helpful to you. It is available 100% FREE for all Apple and Android users. Just head over to your appropriate app store and search for "Tennessee Valley Weather" (yep, you have to spell out "Tennessee"), look for our shield logo, and make that FREE download today! If you find yourself still needing help with the app or you think you may have stumbled upon a bug, feel free to message us on our social media accounts!