Weather.com, the Web site of cable television's Weather Channel, went dark intermittently late Tuesday and early Wednesday, as users sought information on Tropical Storm Ernesto, a Web metrics company said.
According to U.K.-based Netcraft, Weather.com was either offline or showing signs of sluggishness Tuesday evening into early Wednesday. The highest traffic from the United States was recorded Tuesday.
"Weather news sites will continue to be closely watched for the remainder of the week, as Ernesto is projected to drop 5 to 10 inches of rain on Florida before re-emerging over the Atlantic, where forecasters expect it to gain hurricane strength and make a second landfall along the southeast coast," Netcraft said in a statement on its site.
Also on Wednesday, a Portland man who claimed to have recently registered dozens of Internet domain sites containing the term "Ernesto" took exception with a report from a security organization that the sites might be used to defraud users, as happened last year after Hurricane Katrina.
Tuesday, the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center (ISC) warned of a large number of newly-registered Ernesto-related domains. "The domain names are parked, [but] we will keep an eye on them," promised Johannes Ullrich, the chief research officer of the ISC, in an online alert.
On Wednesday, Julian Luby, of Portland, Ore., claimed to have registered between 30 and 50 Ernesto-related domains since Sunday, but denied that he was out to dupe potential charity donors. Instead, he said he was providing storm information on some of the domains, and was hoping to sell others to fund a social network start-up.
"Yes, I have other domains for sale. This is America, this is capitalism. People buy real estate often with the intent of bettering it and selling it," Luby wrote to the ISC.
"As you can see, most of my day has been defending this site because bad people exist in the world, and for some reason I was associated with them," Luby said.
Some of the domains cited by Ullrich were indeed registered to Luby, according to WHOIS searches. The domain "ernestohurricane.com," for example, was registered in December 2005 by someone identified as "Radu Dinu" of Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada.