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April, 2006 - featured website


Chris Hinkle’s site, Cape Coral Weather ( ), went online on March 18, 2005.

Chris’ weather station is the popular Davis VantagePro 2. He likes the Davis line so much because of it’s had excellent reviews from many different sources. As it was his first weather station, he wanted to do extensive research to do it right the first time and not “kick himself” later for buying something he wasn’t happy with. After reading the reviews and finding out some of the great things that the VP2 had (2.5 second updates, wireless technology, ability to add sensors, firmware updates, great support staff at Davis) it made the decision very easy. Since owning the VP2 he’s added a few add-ons. The first thing he bought was the Envoy so he could free his console and not have it locked at the computer desk for updating my site. Chris feels that it’s nice to be able to carry your weather around the house. He also added a FARS (Fan Aspirated Radiation Shield) to have accurate temperature when wind levels were low. Sometimes he noticed my temps pushing 3 degrees higher compared to other stations and installing the FARS the temps are regulating properly. A UV sensor was added in March of 06’. Chris feels that being in Florida (The Sunshine State) makes it obvious why he added the sensor. He spends a lot of time outdoors and feels that it’s always nice to know when peak hours of sunlight are and what type of precautions should be taken when exposed to sunlight. He also responded to suggestions from site visitors - once he looked into it he figured it was time to buy one. He feels that it is a little expensive but a very cool addition! He also added the anemometer transmitter kit so that he could position the anemometer in a different location from the ISS. Currently his anemometer is on his roof and the ISS is on the side of the house. Since he didn’t want to string cable over his roof, he decided to buy the anemometer transmitter kit.

Chris uses Ambient’s Virtual Weather Station software exclusively. He tried WeatherLink from Davis but found it lacking in features compared to VWS. He found VWS’ setup quite simple, and has added Weather Flash to do graphical, near-real-time updates (every 3 seconds). Chris has had some periodic FTP transfer issues, and purchased WebDrive to help avoid the intermittent lockups he’d been experiencing, and hasn’t had any problems since then. He’s hopeful that Ambient will address the FTP issues in the future.

Chris uses a variety of software for web development; FrontPage for graphics placement, Windows Notepad for minor coding changes. While Chris is a self-declared not-an-HTML-expert, he has learned what the various codes mean from and through reading the code. He has found that once you look at the code and see the result on the finished page, it quickly becomes clear what the code is actually doing.

Chris’ motivation for keeping his site on line is to inform his neighbors in Cape Coral about changing weather conditions. Cape Coral has the second largest land mass of any city in Florida, and over 150,000 residents. He feels that having a local weather station with local, real time data is of benefit to the community at large. There is no METAR station in or close to Cape Coral, and the only local weather data otherwise available is on the news. Chris also got tired of surfing the net, looking at numerous sites, trying to get local weather data. Chris decided to take the initiative to make a “one stop shop” for local weather information – current conditions, radar, satellite, and even water temperatures, and hopes this compilation makes it easier for his visitors to get the local weather data they seek. He has been adding to the site all along. Hurricane Charley in August 2004 was a scary moment for a lot of locals, and after Charley’s “visit,” Chris established a Tropics section on his site to keep people informed of activity during the Atlantic Basin hurricane season.

Chris started out with some ideas for his site, but after a few months, wasn’t happy with his original design and made significant changes. He looked at a lot of other sites for ideas, and after his friend John suggested he look at PHP-Nuke for content management, he went with it. Chris says, “There are hundreds of different themes that you can choose from for PHP-Nuke and most are self installing which makes it very easy. The menu navigation is almost effortless and the “clean look” made it really attractive to my eye to give it a shot. Once I started toying with it, the custom configuration and modifications were very time consuming. With the help of John we were able to have the site completed within a couple of weeks. PHP-Nuke took a while to get used to but once I learned it, creating a website couldn’t be easier. Dozens of modifications were included to display the data that I wanted without overwhelming the end user.”

Chris’ future plans include adding multiple webcams; he current runs a single JAVA based cam but wants to add a Flash-based interface to make it a bit user friendly.

Data from Cape Coral weather is sent to CWOP, Wunderground and Weather For You. Chris enjoys contributing to CWOP especially because the National Weather Service actually uses data that he sends, and he enjoys and benefits from the QA analysis done by CWOP. Chris’ CWOP data is available at

Chris first got interested in the weather in 3rd grade. When he got home from school one day he noticed the outdoor conditions were gearing up for a powerful thunderstorm in Cape Coral. As he tells it, “All of a sudden the winds started to pick up drastically so he ran inside and feeling frightened I stood against one of the walls in my living room. The house started to tremble and some of the windows started to break. The next thing I knew the screen enclosure that covered our pool was lifted into the sky right in front of my own eyes. It literally disappeared in about 2 seconds and got thrown into the canal behind us. At the time, people had mentioned that the sound of a tornado sounds just like a train going through your backyard. Well, they were right. We had a direct hit from a very large twister that not only ripped off the screen enclosure but also tore off part of our second story. In those few seconds of fear I also felt like it was quite exciting to see nature take its own path and do whatever damage it wanted to do. I’ve never been through another tornado since then but have had a few close encounters. From that day on I’ve always had my eye in sky looking for anything unusual.” We can understand why, Chris!

Chris’ most rewarding experience with operating a weather station is knowing the data he provides could actually help somebody in my local area. “Whether it’s rain, temperature or even looking at local tides I’m almost sure somebody has found my data helpful. “

Chris’ advice for a beginning weather hobbyist is DO YOUR RESEARCH. That’s what he did, as he didn’t want to be unhappy with a product that he had bought and have to turn around and buy something different six months down the road. He got involved on a few forums and even asked questions and had people give recommendations as to what was the best “bang for the buck.” Chris says, “When you do buy a weather station just make sure it’s going to make you happy.”

As to web site development, Chris recommends that you keep the site clean. He suggests that you don’t overload the frontpage of your website with to much data. Users shouldn’t have to scroll down but maybe a few clicks. He has been to quite a few sites where all the data is contained on the homepage and there is nowhere to click. At some sites, he says that to find a simple radar or even the temperature he finds himself scrolling to the abyss and sometimes couldn’t even find what he is looking for, and he avoids those sites out of frustration. Other wise advice includes, “Keep your menu bar organized. Having your menu bar on the top or even on the side is a great way to set up a site. If you have your menu bar on top I always find it nice to have a second menu on the bottom. That way when the user reaches the bottom, instead of scrolling all the way back up, all the links are right there. By having all the links positioned properly will make it easier for your users to find what they want without the headache.”

Chris was born in Fort Myers, Florida, and raised in Cape Coral his entire life. Chris is 31, and has been married to his wife Krisha for 3 years, with no children – yet. He has worked for Siemens Medical Systems for 10 years servicing CT Scanners and MRI systems in SW Florida. His territory covers Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties so driving can be quite extensive when times are busy. He loves what he does in the healthcare industry. “When a patient is dependent on a scan in the Emergency room and your system is broken sometimes the stress can be quite high. But after things are fixed and your system is operable again it really makes you feel good knowing that you could’ve saved somebody’s life.” When not working, he enjoys hanging out with his friends. Fishing is a big part of life for Chris, too, and he lives in a good place for it. He grew up fishing with his family in the area and it has been in his blood ever since. Maritime activities are weather dependent, too: “Being on the water a lot makes me pay extra special attention to the weather which is another reason why I bought a weather station and built a website. If I’m out on the water at night and feel like there might be danger, its always comforting to know that I can make a quick phone call to the wife and have her pull up the radar. I also enjoy coming home at night and working on the computer. Whether it’s adding new things to my site or surfing the net it’s very relaxing to me and it puts me in my own world away from stress.”

In closing, Chris would like to add a special thanks to his friend John for helping him build practically half of Chris says of John, “He’s very experienced with computers and we spent countless hours together working on it. I keep telling him that he needs to buy a weather station so he can start tracking weather. Maybe one day he will and maybe one day he’ll be on with all of us.”

Congratulations, Chris, on your selection by your peers as’s Featured Weather Web Site for April, 2006!

Writeup by Gary Oldham, posted Tue Apr 18, 2006 2:08 pm on original


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