For years, Steve Parker worked as an insurance claims adjuster in Texas.
Then, inspired when Apple began accepting phone apps from independent developers, he went to Barnes & Noble, bought a few books, and taught himself programming. Though supportive, his wife and friends told him nothing would probably come of it.
A few years later, Parker, 31, runs an app-development company and makes six figures, and his hurricane-tracking app has sold 150,000 copies, reaching #2 on the Apple sales chart as Hurricane Irene struck the East Coast two weeks ago.
For 48 hours, the app even outsold the paid version of Angry Birds.
"I had to tell my 5-year-old, 'Look, we're outselling Angry Birds! It's pretty incredible," said Parker, who has two young sons and another on the way.
Not that it was easy--programming the app (which is also available on the iPad, but not yet for Android phones) was sometimes frustrating, he had to spend a lot of time away from his family, and to stay up-to-date with his primarily East Coast customers, he had to rise very early in the morning to record audio and video updates.
"I was sleeping three or four hours a night," he said. "Eighty percent of the app, it updates itself. But for audio and video content, I've got to publish that myself."
Hurricane Tracker isn't the only app of its kind, but Parker went the extra mile by recording constant mini-reports and pushing instant updates to customers' phones. He uses government data, but throws in expertise he says he's accumulated over the years as a severe weather junkie.
Parker's company, EZ Apps Inc., now has 200 apps for sale. The income he earned allowed the family to do something they've wanted to for a long time: move to Issaquah from Texas.
"The reason I'm here is because of Apple and the app store," he said.