By Hannah Phillips
An autistic man who was too shy to talk to strangers has saved thousands of lives from his BEDROOM – by predicting when storms will strike.
Only becoming confident enough to speak to strangers when he reached his twenties, 24-year-old Nathan Foy now manages a team of 20 volunteers across the globe to provide live coverage and updates of incoming storms, cyclones and hurricanes – all from his bedroom in Leigh, Wigan.
Nathan’s website, Force Thirteen, which he built from scratch, has 30,000 watchers around the world, who rely on him to keep them up to date on any incoming storms – including aid workers and refugees fleeing hurricanes and cyclones.
Nathan, who lives in an annexe in his parents’ garden, said: “It was an idea I had about eight years ago, it all started in my bedroom.
“It’s all self-taught, it just began as my interest and people kept telling me I should do more with it. I never expected it to get this big.
“We reach millions of people per year so they’re all potentially lives changed if not saved.
“When we provide updates to countries with less media countries and the message is passed on, that saves more people.
“I certainly think we have made a huge difference.
“Most recently in the early part of this year, during the cyclone in Mozambique, we helped humanitarian workers to prepare for what was going to happen.”
Nathan’s largest following is in the Philippines, Mauritius and Mozambique where humanitarian aid workers use the information he supplies to decide on the best time to flee an area.
He and his team examine current conditions to predict how favourable they are for storm development and provide live weather reports online.
After leaving school at 14, Nathan battled with anxiety and depression and was diagnosed with autism in 2008 but says he hasn’t let his autism hold him back.
He said: “The example I want to set is that I don’t let autism define me in a negative way.
“I do this to show people who are in a similar situation to me that they can get through it
“I used to be too scared to talk to strangers, and now I’m confident enough to stand in front of a camera.
“It shows that people like me can make it, it just takes time to adapt.
“People can still watch my old videos when I was starting out and the confidence difference is quite immense.
“Over time I’ve been able to establish and manage a team who all have their own personalities too, and I’m still getting better every day.
“The experience has changed me – I have dealt with many things with my mental health including depression, which really made things difficult for many years.
“I also had serious confidence issues and anxiety which I didn’t really overcome until a few years ago.
“When I think about where I might be if I didn’t take on the storm hunting work, it has definitely made me a more capable person.”
Nathan doesn’t work, but instead has dedicated his time to storm watching and lives with his parents, Fiona and Keith.
As well as predicting the weather, Nathan makes animations of previous storms for his YouTube channel, some of which have featured on global networks such as CNN and the International Space Station.
He is now taking Force Thirteen on tour to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, which would only be his second visit out of the UK after visiting the National Hurricane Centre in Miami in 2014.
He said: “I just woke up one morning and it was there. It has taken a lot of time to develop to this.
“It takes up so much time, when you actually take a step back and see what is being achieved by it, that is what I really like about it and I’m also really good at it.”