Mike's Weather Page a.k.a. spaghettimodels.com bills itself as the "No. 1 tropical source for millions since 2004."
The page compiles graphics and images of the latest weather models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations and had more than 600,000 views on Wednesday alone.
Mike Boylan, the site's sole operator, lives in Oldsmar and said he lives for moments like this. He spends 20 hours a day updating the site, which has made him an Internet celebrity: Once at a graduation party in Safety Harbor, he was asked if he if he was the Mike from Mike's Weather Page.
The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore, the rock star of meteorologists, once called Boylan's site a "one-stop shop for weather."
Boylan talked to staff writer Divya Kumar about his work and Hurricane Irma.
What made you start doing this?
I started the website in 2004. I was living here in Florida when we had Charley and all the other hurricanes, and I couldn't find any information on the Internet. I designed the page for myself as an easy way to look at all the maps I wanted to look at, and started sharing with friends and family. Then by word of mouth I guess it kind of spread. First it was just a hidden link, then I bought the domain (in 2008). I don't really know why this year all of a sudden it's really taken off. It's crazy. I'm just a hobbyist. I've learned a lot from this.
What's your web traffic like?
Now, it's about 4,000-5,000 a day when there's no storms. One year, I was excited because it peaked at 4,000 views one day. But I got 649,000 views alone (Wednesday). The NOAA emailed me today that their servers were bogging down, so I changed some of the image sizes. I've noticed for some reason only on the gulf coast of Florida the traffic has really picked up.
I started a Twitter two years ago and have (almost) 10,000 followers and on Facebook (about) a quarter million followers. More than half a million people watched a video I posted last week.
I had to turn off Facebook messages about four days ago. People are just really scared. I'd answer 10 messages, and there'd be about 30 more.
What does your setup look like? About how much time do you spend doing this?
I have an outside server. I had to have a higher powered server. I do the website work myself. This year I started an app because people asked. I maintain that and read a lot of message boards. I keep up on Facebook with a lot of meteorologists and we share information. Between Facebook, Twitter and keeping the site going, I do this about 20 hours a day (at a time like this). Every hour things are changing.
This is a hobby. I have a wife and two kids. They love it. My daughter's 11. She's fascinated with it. I do internet work and search engine work. When things are slow, I've added things over the years. In the springtime, I concentrate on tornados in the Midwest.
I just love it. It's an addiction. It's a strange addiction, the tropics. Something about the tropics just fascinate me.
Are you evacuating?
I'll stay. This is not a rain event, per se. Even (Fox 13's chief meteorologist) Paul Dellegatto said you run from the storm surge, and hide from the wind. I plan on staying. I filled up all the gas, which I wasn't initially planning to do. I'm definitely feeling a little more anxiety thinking what could sort of happen.
How worried are you? Is there anything you would want people who have been tracking the models to know?
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm a 5, which is a lot for me, because I live pretty dangerously. This system is very large. It's got the potential to be larger than Andrew. It's the unknown. It's the real deal. For our area, if it goes to the west, we could have real bad storm surge issues.
I think things are going to get a little more into panic mode. We're fixing to get a little more anxious.
The biggest advice to tell people is don't make knee jerk reactions to each individual forecast. These models change and flip flop a lot. Models change to the left and to the right. Don't panic. The National Hurricane Center has a three-day cone. Models five days out are very inconsistent and you can get really worked up for no reason.
I'd wait until Friday to know if we're under the gun or not. But this is definitely one for the ages.