Tracking hurricane made easy with Internet

By Tom DiFrancesca: Internet Safari

A few months ago, when I started telling folks in Clovis that I was moving to Florida, almost invariably one of the first responses would be “But what about all of the hurricanes?”
My response was always “What hurricanes?” For at the time there was nothing brewing in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean. I’d then try to assure those questioning my sanity that hurricanes weren’t all that bad, and that I’d actually been through a couple already and had survived them just fine.
I mean besides, what is the chance of a hurricane coming in right where I’m moving to anyway?
Well, wouldn’t you know: Just a day or so before I pack up and head for the Sunshine State, both a tropical storm and a hurricane start moving into the Gulf of Mexico.
I think Mother Nature got a real kick out of watching me pull my foot out of my mouth on that one.
As I was navigating my way across country I was able to keep abreast of the locations of both storms, by radio, by television, and of course by way of the Internet. As usual, the folks behind
did an excellent job of providing up-to-date information. I also learned by way of their site, that there is some good (and free) software that one can download and use to track hurricanes and tropical storms.
If you’d like to get your hands on the software, just jump over to
and download it for yourself.
As I was rolling into Vicksburg, Miss., on the way to Florida, I decided to spend the night in that town. I’d been checking out the billboard advertisements for motels when “Free high speed Internet” caught my eye. (Of course it did.)
So, I decided to stop and check the room rates of the motel offering the access. I was quickly turned off by the prices though. So, discouraged that I would not have decent access to the Internet for the night, I decided to check into the motel right next door, which charged about half the price for a room.
When I asked about Internet access at that establishment, I was told “Well, we do have jacks in the phones that you can plug into and dial out with.”
Of course, since I don’t have an account with a national Internet provider, that little jack didn’t do me any good. I had to resort to using my cellular telephone attached to my laptop.
Don’t get me wrong though, the connection is decent enough to check e-mail and such, but surfing the Web gets old real fast.
After I had disconnected my laptop from the cell phone, I decided on a lark to just plug in my Linksys wireless Internet device. I’m sure glad that I did. For low and behold, I had a pretty good signal, good enough to surf the Web, to listen to streaming music, and to chat via MSN Messenger.
Where was the signal coming from you may be wondering? I was happily surfing the Internet compliments of the overpriced motel next door.
Their idea of offering free, high-speed Internet to their guests was to set up a wireless router and to just leave it wide open, no security settings in place, no safeguards.
Speaking of wireless, T-Mobile offered free access to the Internet at most of its Florida Wi-Fi “hotspots”, about 300 to be exact, for a few days after Hurricane Charley decimated parts of Florida. Quite a contribution to the thousands of displaced storm victims.
By the way, the tropical storm came onshore about 100 miles to the east of my location and the hurricane made landfall a good day’s drive from here.
I’m safe and sound.

Tom DiFrancesca III is a freelance columnist and a former resident of Clovis. He can be reached via