All Hail Weather.com's Radar Upgrade

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Fast-moving, often violent weather is part of life in the Midwest. It was a leap forward when the first, somewhat crude radar images were available on cable TV, giving us a chance to see what was coming–and to get cars under cover from spring storms laden with twisters and hail. Then came the Web, and radar moved online, where it took a new leap this month with an upgrade at the Weather Channel's site.

Interactive maps at weather.com now zoom and pan, while keeping the radar images in motion so you can watch a storm's progress.

Also useful: The images zoom to the full resolution of National Weather Service data–1 kilometer–making it possible to track a storm through a neighborhood. And the delay in radar data was cut from 15 or 20 minutes to five, which is about how long it takes for a radar antenna to make a complete revolution, says Todd Richards, weather.com's editorial director. "You really can't get any more updated than that."

If the panning and zooming look familiar, it's because they're using Virtual Earth technology from Microsoft, which also powers a local search and mapping service at Windows Live Local.

The weather.com maps can display as traditional graphics or new aerial photo images, with or without clouds and with or without radar–each at the click of a mouse. It's an impressive upgrade that's helping keep weather.com ahead of the pack, and us ahead of this spring's storms.