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Law student keeps hurricane blogger

Katie Perry | Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Second-year Notre Dame law student Brendan Loy’s newfound celebrity was the product of an unusual source – his fame sprouted from a Web log, blog for short, created in April 2002.

Before the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the 23-year-old’s blog, brendanloy.com, had a respectable traffic flow of approximately 1,000 Web site hits per day. But in the days leading up to and following Katrina’s New Orleans landfall, his count totaled as many as 34,000 hits per day.

Loy, an avid tropical storm tracker since childhood, followed the hurricane’s path and carefully charted its grave potential days before city and state officials paid such notice. No Nostradamus, the self-described “dork” used what most would deem basic common sense to predict the pending mass devastation.

“The local government and the media did not sound the alarm loudly enough, but my blog did,” Loy said. “I didn’t make an amazing forecast, I just looked at what was happening with the National Hurricane Center … I’m not clairvoyant.”

Loy said he based his prediction on public information released by the National Hurricane Center and computer models.

“The main point is not that I made the prediction, but rather why I was the lone voice in the wilderness,” he said.

As early as Friday, Aug. 26, Loy knew of Katrina’s capacity to be an “unprecedented cataclysm that could kill as many as 100,000 people in New Orleans,” he said.

Days before landfall on Aug. 29, Loy posted dozens of entries on his blog informing readers of the chaos to come – well before the media realized the enormity of the situation.

“August is a slow news month and Friday afternoon is the most boring news time imaginable,” said Loy, who studied print journalism as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California. “On Friday when the computer model shifted, the media was asleep at the switch. On Saturday, the Drudge Report – which provides the mainstream media with some of its information – still had a headline up that read ‘Hurricane Heads for Florida.'”

Loy said what was happening off the Gulf Coast Friday did not fit the “pre-fabricated storyline” of the hurricane hitting Florida. Furthermore, he said the media made a second error Saturday when local press hesitated and opted to wait for absolute certainty.

“Even though the media tends to be sensationalist, [media outlets] also did not want to panic people after previous false alarms,” he said. “But in New Orleans, there was no time to delay an evacuation given the specific circumstance.”

When mainstream media finally began to meticulously cover the threat Katrina posed to New Orleans on Sunday, it was too late, Loy said.

Recently, Loy faced a media blitz of his own when television, radio and print journalists from all over the world scrambled to speak with him. Last week, media powerhouses such as the New York Times, MSNBC and BBC Radio featured stories on Loy and his now-famous blog.

Loy said the Times of India contacted him Tuesday for an interview.

“I think [the media attention] will definitely die down, but you never know,” Loy said. “I’m probably at minute 14 in my 15 minutes of fame.”

But although Loy said he is enjoying the recognition, he admitted there is some “tension” because it came out of such a disaster.

“I wish it never happened, but it did, and I’m glad people were able to make good use of the information in my blog,” he said. “In the media, big news is almost always bad news. Dan Rather made his career on the JFK assassination and Aaron Brown on 9/11.”

Loy said despite the recent attention, he still plans on going into law and his endeavors in blogging will remain a hobby.

“With journalism, on a day of crisis – that’s the day you have to go in for work away from your family,” Loy said. “I prefer a more-stable, less crisis-oriented job [than journalism], but all six-figure offers will be seriously considered.”

While some Americans complained of adversary journalism and excessive finger-pointing following coverage of Katrina’s aftermath, Loy said it has been decent.

“For the most part, the aftermath coverage has been good,” he said, “but there’s been too much focus on the federal government, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has not gotten enough flack. He’s probably the single most responsible person.”