When Eric Berger—a.k.a. the Sci Guy—announced his departure from the Houston Chronicle this fall, his followers took a collective gasp. One reader expressed his feelings in haiku, a fitting tribute to the verses that Berger would regularly offer on his blog: “Eric takes new job/Our weather blog is gone now/Sadness all around.” Another forsook poetic pretension for a message that was a bit harsher: “One more reason to stop reading The Chron.”
But just as Berger, who’d taken a gig writing about space online for Ars Technica, took his leave from the daily on October 23, severe rainstorms loomed in the Gulf, threatening to flood the region. His readers—so reliant on Berger’s hype-free reporting that more than 15,000 of them regularly jammed his live Sci Guy chats—were at a bit of a loss. “People were asking me to keep them informed,” he says.
Not wanting to leave them high and dry—or literally inundated, in this case—Berger went home and launched spacecityweather.com that very Friday night. Severe rain and flooding followed that weekend, as did Berger’s regular posts, and he’s kept them coming ever since. The new site has already amassed a loyal following.
Berger traces his style to 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit. “Katrina was the moment I realized that a calm, rational approach to weather reporting works really well,” says the certified meteorologist, who dislikes what he calls “wishcasting”—TV weathercasters’ seemingly eager doomsday predictions. “There’s no reason to be over-the-top,” he says. “If there’s a 10 percent chance of really bad weather, it’s probably going to be fine.”