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This teen tweeter is on the watch for extreme weather

Colin McCarthy’s Twitter page is @US_Stormwatch. McCarthy is a 19-year-old UC Davis freshman who makes viral TikToks and tweets about extreme weather events to nearly 80,000 followers. | Courtesy Colin McCarthy

It started with a lightning strike.

That’s one interaction with nature that ignited 19-year-old Colin McCarthy’s fascination with extreme weather events leading him to make viral TikToks and tweets about them for nearly 85,000 followers between the two platforms.

“I was with my dad backpacking in 2015, and we literally almost got struck by lightning,” remembered McCarthy, who hails from San Carlos and studies atmospheric science at UC Davis. “You feel so small, but it’s just such a powerful kind of experience.”

Since eighth grade, McCarthy has been sharing weather news, analysis and colorful, animated graphics through his Twitter account @US_Stormwatch—part of a secret passion for sharing weather info with others. But the account took off in August 2020 after McCarthy tweeted about a series of dry lightning strikes, also known as a “lightning siege,” that hit California that summer.

“It was an apocalyptic kind of feeling,” McCarthy remembered. 

McCarthy has since expanded the scope of his weather account from Northern California to also share info and analysis about national and international weather events, such as Florida’s Hurricane Ian and heat waves in Europe. More recently, McCarthy has taken his passion for reporting on the weather to TikTok, where his videos have racked up over 600,000 likes and millions of views. 

But the focal point of McCarthy’s social media content is back on NorCal and the Bay Area this week as San Francisco saw its second rainiest day on record on New Year’s Eve and the region reels from a "Pineapple Express" and bomb cyclone, with more rainy weather expected.

@usstormwatch Bomb Cyclone and Pineapple Express Headed for California 👀 #weather #california #snow #rain ♬ Rain Music - Rain Sounds

“The persistence of rain is pretty incredible,” McCarthy said. “Usually in California, you get a lot of quick-hitting, one-and-done storms. And then you’re dry for a couple weeks, possibly. But what’s incredible to me is if you look at NorCal the last two weeks, it’s rained almost every day. [...] The persistence of the pattern is what’s pretty incredible to me, and it looks like it’s going to last another 7 to 10 days.”

Based on the calculations of his fellow weather Twitter colleagues, McCarthy estimates that over 20 trillion gallons of water are expected to fall across California during this surge of storms.

“It helps people realize how much water these atmospheric rivers can drop and kind of how important it is to our whole climate and whole landscape to get that water because we’re missing trillions of gallons of water over the last three years,” said McCarthy, referring to California’s drought.  

@usstormwatch Storm parade headed for California 👀 #weather #california #snow #rain #flood ♬ Rain Sound - Rain Sounds Lab & Nature Sounds & Rain

McCarthy isn’t sure yet how exactly he’ll pursue his passion for weather professionally—although he writes for weather app My Radar and hopes to visit the eye of a storm one day—but the passionate weather hobbyist hopes that his social media content can inform viewers about the power of extreme weather in a world increasingly affected by climate change.

“Weather it drives everyday action. It affects the economy. It affects business. It really just affects everything, and that’s why people should be aware of it,” McCarthy said.

Christina Campodonico can be reached at