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Travel Bargain destination in Oklahoma

“Storm Chasers” Tour and Weather Prediction in Norman Oklahoma

Virtual Globe NOAA Lobbey photoYou’re watching a favorite telivision program, with the detective just about to reveal the identity of the psycho killer when suddenly the screen goes black with a piercing buzz alarm and a red striped message plays across the screen with a computerized voice warning of severe strom conditions heading your way. Urging you to grab the kids and the dog and head to the storm cellar. With visions of Bert Lahr warning “it’s a twister, it’s a twister”, you head for the basement or a doorway. If you’re fortunate, the storm passes and you’re only left wondering who the psycho killer was… I live in southern California where earthquakes come without warning, but I’ll take an earthquake over a tornado any day. But what about those warnings, where do they come from?

National Weather Center Norman Oklahome Campus photoThe image of the “storm chaser”, those wacko nerds who jump in trucks and race across the grassy plains of the Midwest, brought to movie theaters in the Spielberg film, “Twister” starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, probably only one of two movies ever with a flying cow, comes from the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma. The current center, mid-west field headquarters and research center of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where the storm warnings originate was built in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma, on the southern edge of the university campus about a half hour from Oklahoma City.

The weather center actually houses a virtual alphabet soup of NOAA supported federal government organizations involved in weather research, storm tracking, and forecasting and warning as well as education – the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the National Weather Service Forecast Office, NEXRAD Radar Operations Center, Storm Prediction Center and Warning Decision Training Branch. Manned by professional scientists and students, the center studies, tracks and predicts weather – and they still chase storms.

Public Tours of the National Weather Center

Storms Lab screens photoYes, it is possible to tour the inner workings of the National Weather Center. Public tours of the National Weather Center are given on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, starting at 1 p.m. The tours last about 45 minutes with a comprehensive look at the behind the scenes working of weather research and forecasting. Reservations are necessary as space on the tours are limited. After donning your visitor badge, while waiting for the tour to begin, loiter a bit in the ground floor lobby of center under the Science on a Sphere in the atrium of the National Weather Center where world weather pattern pass in time across the face of the suspended virtual globe, or have a look at props from the movie “Twister”, the barrel of weather sensors intended to be sent up into a tornado nicknamed “Dorothy” and other props donated to the center.

Dorothy Twister Prop photoThe tour, guided by a working scientist includes visits to the School of Meteorology, the observation deck, classrooms and laboratory facilities, a look at the tracking radar vehicles which dash out into the storms, with the evidence of hail pelted metal, as well as a peek at high tech rooms of screens where weather is tracked 24 hours a day with sophisticated computer models to issue the storm and weather warnings, the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, the Norman National Weather Service Forecast Office, and the National Severe Storms Laboratory. The tour visits the rooftop observation deck looking out over the flat plains of southern Oklahoma, where a clear sky can turn in a few hours to a black and angry stormy monster.

Visiting the National Weather Center

The National Weather Center is just off the I35 Intersatate at Highway 9 south of the city of Norman. Nearby is the Sam Noble Museum of Natural Nistory. The tours are free. To reserve a spot on the public tour email or call 405-325-1147. For a snack, you can munch at the on-site “Flying Cow Café” - if you can catch one. If you can't make it there in person, you can take a virtual tour
. © Bargain Travel West

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Web Info
National Wether Center
120 Davis S. Boren Blvd
Norman, Oklhoma

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