For those preparing for Hurricane Irene's landfall this weekend, a certain amount of the work is material: stock up on water and food at the store, pile up sandbags to prevent flooding, prepare an emergency go-bag. But a lot of prepping is also informational: Where is the storm forecast to hit? Do you live somewhere likely to be evacuated? Where is the nearest shelter? For those needs, governmental agencies, press organizations, and private companies have created some great online tools ahead of the storm. We've collected some of the best ones here.
But first, a few great pictures of the storm from space.
Story continues below the gallery.
As of right now, the storm is expected to hit New York City quite hard. The public radio station, WNYC, has created an interactive map of flood zones and evacuation centers to help those who live there:
If a map isn't your preferred search tool, New York City's Office of Emergency Management has an evacuation-zone finder. Just enter your address and it will tell you what you should do. Unfortunately, because the NYC government sites have been inundated with traffic, some of their pages are down. They recommend checking their page on Facebook. You can also get updates from on Twitter from Rachel Sterne, NYC's Chief Digital Officer, and from the office of the mayor.
For data on the storm's progress, NOAA's National Hurricane Center is the place to start. These updates are also available as an RSS feed, for those who prefer to get their news that way. The NHC also has an interactive map that shows how far inland storm surges could reach. It's not embeddable, but here's a picture of what that tool looks like:
For historical data, the NHC has animation of the storm surge from the Hurricane of 1938, the biggest to ever hit New England.
FEMA (widely accused of a disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina) has created an app for Android phones that has tips about creating an emergency kit, a map with recovery-center locations, and access to updates from the FEMA blog.
A Google.org project called Crisis Response has a map of the hurricane's likely path. If you click through to the page, you can add other layers including one that shows recommended evacuation routes.
A final neat widget comes from the enhanced search engine WolframAlpha. Perhaps not as useful for disaster-preparedness planning as some of the government's sites, WolframAlpha's page now allows you to type in two hurricanes and compare their stats.
Update, Saturday 1:18 p.m.: For people living on Long Island, Newsday has put together a list of Long Island-specific resources that can be found here.