'Weather nerd' in Indiana warned New Orleans mayor

A 23-year-old with no formal meteorological training draws widespread praise for his hurricane blog.

One of the earliest and perhaps clearest alarms about Hurricane Katrina's potential threat to New Orleans was sounded not by the Weather Channel or a government agency but by a self-described weather nerd sitting on a couch in Indiana with a laptop computer and a remote control.

"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," Brendan Loy, who is 23 and has no formal meteorological training, wrote on Aug. 26 in his blog. "If I were in New Orleans, I would seriously consider getting the hell out of Dodge right now, just in case."

Loy's posting that Friday afternoon came three days before the hurricane struck and two days before the mayor of New Orleans, Ray C. Nagin, issued an evacuation order. Posts over the next several days, in aggregate, seem now like an eerie rewriting of the tale of Chicken Little, in which the sky does in fact fall.

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In the cooperative and competitive world of blogs, Loy's has gotten some serious praise. Mickey Kaus, whose kausfiles blog is featured on Slate.com, wrote on Friday that "Loy's blog for the past week is a pretty extraordinary document," adding that "it should maybe be in the Smithsonian, if you can put a blog in the Smithsonian."

Glenn Reynolds, who blogs at Instapundit.com, linked to Loy's Web site several times beginning on Aug. 26. That's the Internet equivalent of a northeaster, and all over, blogs started linking to Loy's. (Jeff Masters and Charles Fenwick, among others, also gave early and dire warnings about New Orleans on their highly trafficked weather blogs.)

According to Blog Pulse from Intelliseek, which measures blog links, Loy's was the most frequently cited nonnews source among hurricane-related blogs. On Aug. 28, it was ranked 14th among most frequently linked-to sites of all sorts.

That was more weight than Loy, who weighs 160 and is 6 foot 2, is accustomed to throwing around. A second-year law student at Notre Dame, he began blogging in 2002--writing about football (his blog's name combines Notre Dame's football team, the Fighting Irish, with that of his college team, the Trojans of the University of Southern California), his cats, his dog, his fiancee Becky, the Red Sox, politics, "The Lord of the Rings" and weather.

"Hurricane Hugo was the first storm that I paid attention to, when I was 7 or 8," he said in a telephone interview from South Bend, Ind. "I found them fascinating and became kind of a weather nerd, watching the Weather Channel religiously." Loy joined online discussions with other hurricane watchers, and monitored the National Hurricane Center's Web site, whose satellite pictures he regularly posts and analyzes on his blog.

He called for Mayor Nagin to issue an evacuation order days before the mayor issued one, and his posts on the subject grew increasingly agitated. "It's definitely true that I am more willing to pull the trigger," he acknowledged, "because I don't have to deal with the consequences if they had had an evacuation and the storm hadn't hit. It's easy for me to sit here and say, 'Everyone leave.'"

He derives little pleasure from being proved right. "The results are so dire, and I knew they would be so dire, that I was fervently praying that I'd be wrong. There's always some vindication that comes from being right, but I would much rather have been wrong and be getting 1,000 hits a day now instead of 25,000."

Classes started last week, and Loy has put an end to all-night blogging. Recent entries have been as likely to be about his cats or football as Katrina. He will keep chasing hurricane information, but he says that if a hurricane approached him, he would heed his own advice.

"As much as I'm enthralled by high waves and strong winds," he said, "I understand the powers of these things. I might leave the computer running and have a Webcam hooked up and hope the power didn't go out so I could see what was happening from a remote location, but I wouldn't stick around."

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