Smartphone apps to download before Florence

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Zello, ReadyNC and GasBuddy are among the recommended downloads before the storm arrives.

WILMINGTON – Power outages and faulty internet are all but guaranteed as Hurricane Florence bears down on the region.

But this isn’t 1954, when Hurricane Hazel beat and battered the area to a devastating degree and the only form of communication was a landline. Today, weather officials recommended residents use one of the most power tools in their arsenal for prepping for and getting through a storm – their cellphone.

There are several mobile phone apps that could prove useful as Florence paces toward the Cape Fear region. But a word to the wise — some come with caveats.

ReadyNC: The state’s official emergency notification app for real-time traffic information and, most pressing for local residents, the latest hurricane information. The app offers current location-based weather information, mandatory evacuation notices, shelter information, how to create an emergency plan and emergency responses contacts. As with any mobile phone app, this will require an internet connection, so it will only work as long as your phone can find a wi-fi signal.

Zello: This popular application turns your phone into walkie talkie, allowing for communication with other subscribers in case of a cellular phone outage. Facebook and Twitter have already been flooded with people sharing their usernames to family and friends in advance of the storm. Neighborhoods have even set up their own channels to all neighborhoods to keep in tough. But Zello comes with a major disclaimer: it will not work without cell reception or a wireless internet connection. Complete internet outage is rare, but your phone battery could be drained looking for the cell tower to connect through. Download Zello, but know its limitations.

Hurricane – American Red Cross: The Red Cross has a number of apps, but its hurricane-focused one could be of great use to local residents. Not only is it a hurricane tracker, it will also be updated with Red Cross shelter locations and allow users to mark themselves as safe through linked social media accounts once the storm passes.

GasBuddy: Once the storm arrives, no one should be traveling on area roads as rain and wind pound the region. But in the hours leading up to the arrival and in the days after, GasBuddy’s app can be a good way to track what stations have fuel and which ones don’t.

Firechat: This communication app doesn’t need an internet connection to send messages, instead using Bluetooth and wi-fi signals. However, it is only good for short-range communication within 200 feet of other devices also running the application.

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or