We're in the depths of hurricane season, a fact reinforced by Charley's devastating path through Florida. The storms, however, can also wreak havoc on travel plans, whether you're vacationing in a spot affected by a hurricane, heading there on business or simply flying through en route to another destination. While watching TV newscasts is one way to stay informed, that's not an option if you're glued to your desk. Here's a look at four all-weather Web sites that track storms and provide general forecasts -- and, ultimately, help travelers.

-- Elissa Leibowitz

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

www.noaa.gov

OVERVIEW:

A weather geek's paradise, this dry but fascinating site is packed with official weather reports, historical data, news and tips. Local forecasts (short and long term) are updated frequently, as are warnings for your area. Provides forecasts for U.S. only.

COOL FEATURES:

Pretend you're Bob Ryan and evaluate satellite images and color-drenched maps. Graphics show temperature, dew point, sky cover and wind, among others. (For slightly fewer bells and whistles, head to www.weath er.gov, the National Weather Service's site.)

IF THERE'S A HURRICANE . . .

The site contains constantly updated forecasts, satellite images and warnings. Clicking on "Get the latest on hurricanes and tropical storms from NOAA" takes you to the National Hurricane Center and its bounty of tips, plus the latest advisories on a storm's strength, strike probabilities and maps plotting its path.

GRIPES:

The site is so graphics-laden that it can be molasses-slow, even with the fastest Internet connection -- so forget about quick access during peak usage time.

Weather Channel

www.weather.com

OVERVIEW:

This snazzy site is a traveler's best friend. Monitor air quality and airport delays in your destination, or check ski and golf conditions. You can also whine about airport security lines in the aviation message board.

Provides domestic/international forecasts.

COOL FEATURES:

Don't care where you go as long as it's not 85 degrees and humid? Choose a temperature/ month/region or a theme (such as "Beach Bum"), and the site's Vacation Planner tells you where to go.

IF THERE'S A HURRICANE . . .

Besides frequently updated summaries on a storm's progress provided by staff meteorologists, you'll also find reports on the havoc it's wreaking on air and highway travel. Bonus: Weather Channel video of reporters in the field and in the studio.

GRIPES:

Annoying video pop-up ads are like hail on a windshield. Also, it can be hard to discern Web site content from ads.

Weather Underground

www.wunderground.com

OVERVIEW:

A non-weather geek's paradise, this site is geared toward those who like their weather over-easy. Sure, there's plenty of historical data, UV forecasts and wind-chill indexes, but they're boiled down into easy-to-read forecasts and color-coded maps.

Provides domestic/international forecasts.

COOL FEATURES:

Impress your star-gazing friends by pointing out Draco the Dragon and Cassiopeia in the nighttime sky using the programmable constellation maps that show the stars' positions from your latitude and longitude. And you can zoom waaay in on satellite images from space. Wait, is that my house?

IF THERE'S A HURRICANE . . .

If NOAA's reporting is above your head, look at easy-to-read tricolor maps that show a storm's location, its expected path and when it will cross certain spots. Official advisories and updates are included, but don't go here for loads of details and historical data.

GRIPES:

Pointless camera-phone photos miss the mark in site's promise to provide "most up-to-date photo coverage" of world weather. Pay $5 annual fee and you could post your pics (and see the site sans ads).

AccuWeather

www.accuweather.com

OVERVIEW:

This site seems tailor-made for the traveler on the go, with weather reports along interstates, all-in-one weather maps and forecasts catered to golf, ski or water- sports enthusiasts. Other features include 15-day forecasts and fun "world's hot spot" graphics.

Provides domestic/international forecasts.

COOL FEATURES:

As if TV weatherpeople aren't cartoonish enough, an animated weathercaster delivers the national forecast each day in local-news style . . . but not without a nod to the drug company that sponsors it. A "Weather Glossary" on the home page's left column makes sense of scientific mumbo-jumbo.

IF THERE'S A HURRICANE . . .

"Expert senior forecaster"/body builder Joe Bastardi shares his "bulldog intuition" of hurricanes -- for a price (a monthly fee of $14.95). Who needs him when you can track storms with simple position and movement maps that are updated four times daily. Learn trivia such as how the storms develop and which hurricane names have been retired.

GRIPES:

Plugs for the site's special paid services, such as its "interactive weather display system" ($380 a year for the platinum level) get tiresome.