Photo: Mark Wemple
"You know, we’re living in a time when there’s not much togetherness out there," says Boylan. "But weather affects everybody, and everybody loves to talk about the weather. It’s something that brings people together."
Icon: Mike Boylan
Weather blogger, storm chaser, creator of Mike's Weather Page and spaghettimodels.com, Oldsmar; age 49
Hurricane Charley in 2004, that storm was heading right toward us in Tampa Bay, and that’s when I got addicted to forecast cones and tracks. I discovered spaghetti models, but it was a struggle back then to find a spaghetti model on the internet. I learned a little HTML in college, so I created a spaghetti models website to keep myself informed. But it was weird. People started discovering it, and the website started getting traffic through word of mouth. Then, social media basically just blew it up.
One thing my dad always said that stuck with me is if you’re going to do something, do it with a smile. Otherwise, you accomplish nothing.
I’m not a meteorologist, but people rely on me for information, so I post every day. I feel guilty when I don’t. I don’t think there has been a day go by that I haven’t posted in nearly 10 years.
You know, some people come home from work and flip on Netflix, but I’d rather sit and read about what’s happening in the weather world.
The No. 1 thing I’ve found over the years is people hate hype, so I’m careful about what I say. Like, if I say something about a storm entering favorable conditions, I’ll get instant feedback. What do you mean favorable? Are you rooting for the storm to grow? I get it. People take every word to heart.
I’ve been very fortunate that I can count maybe on two hands the number of people who have tried to start trouble with me online. You would think with 2 million followers I would have more hate.
Hurricane tracking really fascinates me. I compare it to watching a soap opera. Every storm is a story. You watch them progress. You watch the track. It’s like an adventure. The storm becomes a part of your life. It’s hard to understand, I guess, unless you live in Florida.
Floridians are resilient, and that can be a problem. They think they can handle anything. They’ve been through storms before and they remember when a forecast was wrong, so they don’t always evacuate when they should. I call it the cry-wolf syndrome. Another thing is people focus too much on where the center is projected to make landfall. The effects can be well outside the center line — and the effects well inland can also be devastating.
You know, we’re living in a time when there’s not much togetherness out there. But weather affects everybody, and everybody loves to talk about the weather. It’s something that brings people together.
When Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana in 2020, I talked online for like five hours. Something hit me about that, and I was like I have to go see these storms firsthand, and I started doing that in 2021. It’s one thing to talk about storm surge and downed power lines, but it’s another to actually see it, and explain what it’s like to people.
I’m not a climate guy, but, yeah, the waters are getting warmer. You can’t deny that. And warmer waters fuel hurricanes and fuel rapid intensification. It seems every year during the last five or six, we’ve had a storm go through rapid intensification. I don’t know if this trend is going to continue, but I do know that rapid intensification is real.
Interstate 4, driving in Orlando, or between Tampa and Orlando, it’s the most stress I’ve ever had in my life. It doesn’t matter what time of day.
In 2018, during Hurricane Florence, I was getting a lot of social media traction, and my site was growing, and I guess there was a local meteorologist in Savannah, Georgia, who didn’t like that and she called me out. During the newscast, she said there was some dude named Mike down in Florida who was sharing a particular forecast model over the internet and that any drunk donkey can share a model. Well, I believed in that model, which is why I showed it. Anyway, the next day, I had a shirt made, a drunk donkey T-shirt, and I sold a couple thousand. The drunk donkey became kind of a mascot.
This was about 1999, and I wanted to figure out a way to use my computer for everything. I was tired of dating, so I was like I’m going to find a girl on AOL. Now, there’s eHarmony and websites like that, but back then it was chat rooms on AOL. That’s how I met Julie, who became my wife.
Storm chasing, I’ve been in the eye of a Category 4. I have a weird obsession about being in the eye. I don’t know why. I have a really good truck, well equipped. There’s a saying that you hide from the wind and run from the water. Ninety-percent of all hurricane deaths are water related, so as long as you kind of stay away from surge and water, you should be OK.
One thing I do is I share the family side of my life. My followers know my two pugs. People know about my kids. My daughter, Emily, is in high school and has played softball since she was 6, and she’s definitely good enough to play in college. We go to every game. And my daughter, Sarah, is famous. She has Down’s syndrome, and she’s my biggest weather fan. She’s in the eighth-grade. She’ll get home from school, and when I’m done with a weather update, she’ll walk over and say, ‘Daddy, you talk a lot.’ It’s awesome.
I don’t have any desire to go back to college and get a degree in meteorology. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything. I don’t need the piece of paper.
What I’ve found is that most of my followers are just like me. They like to raise their kids. They like their dogs. They like NASCAR. And, you know, they like to drink their beer — just like me.
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