OLDSMAR — When we last checked in with Mike Boylan nearly three years ago, the former marketing major at USF was starting to find success with Mike’s Weather Page, a Facebook site Boylan launched in 2009 to help promote spaghettimodels.com, a basic storm-tracking website he developed while in college.
In November 2018, the Oldsmar resident’s Facebook page had roughly half a million followers and Boylan was gaining recognition in the industry thanks to his no nonsense approach to covering storms — watching and posting storm-path models produced by dozens of professional tracking sites, including the National Hurricane Center. “I did it as a hobby,” Boylan, a self-professed lifelong weather nut, explained. “It was an addiction. You get excited when the models come out.”
Today, Mike’s Weather Page has more than a million followers and Boylan has become somewhat of a celebrity in the weather watching world. He’s rubbed elbows with local and national industry luminaries like Jim Cantore, Denis Phillips and Paul Dellegatto; received several accolades and awards, including the 2021 Tropical Meteorology Award at the recent Governor’s Hurricane Conference; and developed a rabid fanbase of MWP followers known as Drunk Donkeys, who proudly display their allegiance worldwide. He even has his own beer, a tropical IPA produced by Clearwater’s Big Storm Brewery called Hurricane Hunter, named after one of Boylan’s beloved French bulldogs.
But don’t think all the attention and accolades have gone to the native Floridian’s head.
During a recent sit-down at Big Storm, the man known as Mike the Weather Guy proved to be as laid back and self-effacing now as he was when he started. He’s a NASCAR-loving family man dedicated to his wife, Julie, his daughters, Sarah and Emily, and tracking every storm that comes along, in the state of Florida and beyond.
“When I first started the Facebook page in 2009 it started slow. I think we passed 5,000 fans a couple of years later,” Boylan said from the Clearwater brewery one late April afternoon, where beer cans bearing his dog’s likeness sat stacked in a cooler behind him. “But Hurricane Irma in 2017 really kick-started things, and when we hit a million (Facebook) followers last year I was amazed. Totally. I still don’t know what to make of it. I can’t go anywhere where we don’t have fans, all they’re all great. My wife has worked at Publix for 34 years and she always freaks out when some asks, ‘Are you Mike’s wife?’ But she loves it, and my kids love it, and people love them. So, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Typically, whenever someone accumulates such a huge social media following, they get hit with a corresponding amount of backlash.
But despite having no professional industry background Boylan, who does HTML and web consulting work in the off-season, believes people have embraced him due to his hype-free style of covering the weather. “I’m self-taught and I’ve never been taken to task for a wrong forecast,” he said, noting he believes “the way weather is covered” has changed a lot in recent years “and social media is the main reason why.
“It’s a fine line and I’m scared to death one day of doing something wrong,” he added. “But (WFTS-28’s) Denis Phillips is a great friend, and he’s embraced it. (FOX 13’s) Paul Dellegatto and (Bay News 9’s) Mike Clay have embraced it and share tips. We’re featured on the National Weather Service website. They don’t see it as a competition at all. I think because I’m such a laid-back unprofessional they can’t hate me!”
Indeed, Boylan not only acknowledges his lack of a professional background in the field, he embraces it, with the most obvious example being Drunk Donkey. The nickname that started as a slight now adorns tee shirts, travel mugs and umbrellas on his website and quickly became a badge of honor for his followers.
“Around 2018 a meteorologist in South Carolina was talking about MWP and she said something like, ‘Any drunk donkey can read a weather map’ on a live feed, and I laughed and made a shirt about it,” he recalled. “Some people took offense with it, but I didn’t. I thought it was great because I don’t claim to be anyone I’m not.”
Now, with more than a million Drunk Donkeys and counting, an expansion to Twitter, Instagram and You Tube, a beer named after his dog and a busy family life that includes camping, attending NASCAR races and supporting Emily, a rising sophomore on the East Lake High School softball team, the logical question is what’s next for Mike the Weather Guy?
“Storm chasing,” Boylan replied. “I love it. I drove to Biloxi (Mississippi) to see (hurricane) Zeta by myself last year, and it was crazy. It opened up a whole new world for me, helping me understand the industry, and it opened my eyes to what people go through after a storm. It’s educational and that’s huge for me. Plus, I’m meeting people, and that’s the coolest thing. They get a kick out of seeing Mike the Weather Guy!”