You read right his "mad" idea is simply that electromagnetic fields effect the formation and evolution of cyclones.  What they proposed and measured in the paper, "Electromagnetic fields recorded in mesocyclones" by Richard Heene, Robert Stevens, and Barb Slusser, is a small effect.  The basic premise is sound, moving electric charges generate magnetic fields.   I have read myself and heard of things published on the arxiv which were patent nonsense. It stands to reason that a large mass of such charged matter, like thunder clouds is rotating it could generate a B field.  They measured this field and reported it.  This is at least not patent nonsense.  Heck I'll even say (baring fraud by all three researchers) it's perfectly sound science. 

My impression of this paper.
In a system like a cyclone one has to look to statistical methods and chaos theory (no not like in the butterfly effect actual chaos theory ).  Those theories lead to the fact that a small initial perturbation can lead to very different future evolution given what should be the same forces and conditions.  While I am certain that formation of cyclones can be explained well enough without accounting for the electromagnetic forces.  It is true enough, where there is lightning there is current, where there is current there is electromagnetism.  That's basic experimental physics. The best kind of physics.

I see applications to accurate weather forecasting and other things in this line of research.

Why do I flog this dead horse?

I don't know if this is a hoax.  As someone who has dealt with the law in a case which made local news... The papers have room to print three negative stories about you and sometimes not even two lines for the retraction or news of your exoneration. As someone who has had mere possession of any scientific knowledge and had reporters call me "cold and calculating" because of it.... I know.  I was in HS at the time and had all the know how one could get from non-calculus based physics and a 17 year lifetime of interest in science.  What made me cold and calculating? Being better at math than the average student there.  For the record I was exonerated in the end.   Not unlike Richard Jewell, or Patsy Ramsey, the list could go on.

Don't take the word of the lay press for what is and is not true about anything scientific.  I mean anything at all.  The reporters go to journalism school and maybe take a 100 level physical science class or two. They don't have the knowledge to evaluate the merits of any such idea.  Basically the media will rely on life circumstances (i.e. an academic position, degree's, etc) and confer credibility based on such marks.  When the real marks of credibility are publications and citations.

My points.
I hope this drives home the point that mere education, book learnins as such, does not make one a scientist.  Actually getting out there, in the lab, in the observatory, or theorizing with testable predictions, those are what makes one a scientist.  

Second don't believe what journalist say without a bit of skepticism.  Especially their assessment of what scientific theories are crackpot or not.  One must actually read the papers.  Think about them for a bit.  Academic appointments are a good guide, but not a guarantee of credibility , or is the lack of such a job/title a guarantee of incorrectness. 

This is all I have to say and I'll say no more.