'Weather nerd' feels pressure to blog Rita

Katrina blogger wants to feed his hungry audience with storm news, but he has a life to lead.

It's not easy being Brendan Loy, the self-described "weather nerd" who has suddenly found fame.

While going from everyday blogger to host of the "No. 1 blog for Katrina-related news" seems like an Internet-age dream come true, Loy has found that fame has its drawbacks, particularly with Hurricane Rita on the way.

"I'm definitely feeling the pressure, and it's definitely taking a toll," the 23-year-old law student said from an airport en route to interviews for his summer associateship.

Don't get him wrong, Loy was thrilled by the he got for his 24-hour blogging on Katrina, not to mention his site's huge spike in Web traffic and the satisfaction he got in helping those affected by the devastating storm, he said.

Loy's 3-year-old blog about everything from the weather to happenings in his classes at the University of Notre Dame (and before that University of Southern California) used to get about 1,000 hits a day. That spiked in the wake of Katrina to nearly 35,000, dropped back down to about 2,000 in recent weeks and appears to be back on the rise as Rita approaches.

Much of the attention was because Loy--who has no formal meteorological training but has watched The Weather Channel since he was 3 years old--sounded one of the earliest and perhaps clearest alarms about Hurricane Katrina's threat to New Orleans.

"At the risk of being alarmist, we could be 3-4 days away from an unprecedented cataclysm that could kill as many as 100,000 people in New Orleans," Loy wrote in his now well-documented blog entry on Aug. 26, three days before the hurricane struck. "If I were in New Orleans, I would seriously consider getting the hell out of Dodge right now, just in case."

But the spotlight, the all-night blogging and the resulting media frenzy "overwhelmed my life for about two weeks," Loy said, and the Connecticut native had other life responsibilities to which he needed to tend. The second-year law student had missed classes and fallen behind in his reading. He now has interviews for a job he hopes to land this summer in Phoenix. He has also been mourning the loss of a close friend--his high-school prom date--who died unexpectedly last week in Utah.

"I try to keep reminding myself that I don't have to post stuff to my blog. It's my hobby. It doesn't have to take over my life," said Loy, who lives in South Bend, Ind.

The pressure to produce isn't unique to Loy. It's the plight of many popular bloggers, said Dan Gillmor, a San Francisco Bay Area blogger with a focus on media and technology.

"Blogs are hungry beasts that want to be fed," he said. "Readers should realize, however, that bloggers do have lives outside their computers and cut them some slack--especially the ones who do it for no financial compensation."

Knowing that his new audience is hungry for Rita coverage, Loy has recruited some guest weather bloggers to help him out. "I don't want to lose the new readers. Web traffic is a fickle thing," he said. "But there's no way I can blog Rita like I blogged Katrina."

And while excited about his larger audience, Loy said he has some concerns about losing his base community members, some of whom have noticed a change in the tone of the online dialogue since it's grown and become more weather-oriented.

While meteorology has always been a passion, Loy's blog reflects other interests, including politics, friends, Apple Computer products, astronomy and, of course, his fiancee, Becky. A video posted on his blog of his proposal to Becky is a clear forecast of love in the air.

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