Saturday, March 28, 2009

Storms of the Pacific Museum

What does the Washington coast have in spades? ... great storms. And people are very interested in severe weather. How can we provide a wonderful education resource on this topic, give a major boost to the economy of the Washington coast, and offer a wonderful recreational experience?

Imagine a "Pacific Storms Museum" in Westport (or some other coastal town). A facility with exhibits on past great storms (like the Columbus Day Storm), explanations of the structure and nature of major Pacific storms, pictures and videos of strong events--perhaps even a surround-type experience for a strong event. An exhibit describing the effects of strong storms on the forests. A weather station with the latest readings. A room describing local shipwrecks. And, of course, a gift shop. This facility could also include an exhibit on tsunamis.

This museum could be a major educational and tourist attraction that would bring
tens of thousands --even hundreds of thousands--of visitors a year to Westport or some other lucky town...and could have a nationwide draw. And it could be an economic boom for the region.

But the fun doesn't stop there. People spend thousands of dollars to
go storm chasing in the midwest (I have a friend who is in the business...and it is booming even in bad times). Imagine storm weekends or longer in Westport. They could experience the weather themselves during the November-February season, enjoy lectures from weather experts and locals, enjoy special "storm meals" at local restaurants (perhaps even illuminated by storm lanterns), and stay in local B&Bs and hotels. Perhaps even field trips to see blowdowns or shipwrecks. I tell you..this could be a very large attraction, at least as big as Lewis and Clarke museum near North Head and the marine museum in Astoria....and probably much bigger. What do you think? How could this idea be improved? How could we get started on this?

The Washington coast have a tremendous resource--the storms--and my
intuition is that there is a very viable business model for a "storm industry" . Then as long as you have this free-spending crowd, there are lots of other things local shops can sell them..like coastal art, watercolor paintings, and yes...teeshirts. It has always bothered me that people drive all the way to Cannon Beach for a quality beach experience. Why not much closer and something much more authentic?

PS: Arthur Grunbaum, who leaves on Gray's Harbor, suggested a version of this to me a few years ago...so he deserves the credit (or the blame).

36 comments:

Dale said...

No fun without lightning.

http://www.desertusa.com/mag07/mar07/lightning.html

http://www.lightninglady.com/

RobbyRob said...

Cliff, I love the idea. I would add a wind tunnel to the museum plans though. You could have buttons labeled with storm names that have hit the northwest and you could feel how strong the peak gusts and sustained winds were that accompanied these storms.

DeAnne said...

It's snowing in Lakewood - 30F 1/4 inch snow on deck rail.

We bought at the Washington coast because of our interest in storms. We now share our duplex home to those who want a get away with "storm watch" specials during the December/January months. Very popular amoung native Washingtonians. Situated on the Coast just 1 mile North of Pacific Beach, we have a front row seat to some of the fastest moving and most powerful storms. We do have the Davis weather instrument set up and would love to set it up live on a computer site.

I love the Storm Museaum Idea... How does one formulate such a project? Form a group with professional storm watchers, weather buffs and business entrepreneurs?

JewelyaZ said...

I love the idea. Weather workshops could be scheduled during the "off" season -- summer -- for locals who want to learn how to weatherize their properties to survive the windstorms.

Fire weather of Eastern Washington is also amazing and should potentially be covered.

Snow machines making "Cascade concrete" and the crystalline cold-weather snow -- dendritic I think you called it? -- could be set up so that visitors could make snowballs in the varying water-content snow and feel it in their own hands.

A series of displays of how radar works and how to read that screen or image.

Understanding dew point and wet-bulb temperatures.

Planting weather.

The list of topics is ENDLESS.

I live here (Bellevue), I'm pretty smart and somewhat educated on these subjets, and I'd STILL pay good money for more information presented with accuracy and high accessibility!!

JewelyaZ said...

P.S. I'd help raise money to pay for a "Cliff Mass Weather Education Something-or-other" display, too. Not to embarrass you, but to inspire kids who might wish to study the weather. You are uniquely approachable and kids appreciate what you have to say. My 15 year old and 9 year old both want to listen to your weekend forecast every week so I have to download the Podcast for them. The 9 yo has become fascinated by the blog and has learned a lot. She is avidly working her way through your book, which I got for Christmas, asking me questions about vocabulary and concepts she doesn't understand. I very much appreciate the way you make the complex weather here more understandble, Cliff, and as a parent, thank you for being accessible to our kids too.

Weatherfreak said...

Old man winter does NOT want to give up. Upper 30's and cold rain/snow most of the day. Snow band moved through about 10:30pm tonight and dropped a solid 1.5" in Lakeland Hills, Auburn. Absolute winter wonderland and still 32 deg. at 12:30am. Have to believe this will be the last. We'll see!

Teresa said...

I've heard enough terms on this blog that I don't understand that when you said "storm museum" I thought you were speaking of another such weather term! More coffee, puh-lease!

People get excited about storms -- in positive and negative ways. A storm museum sounds like a good idea.

We have snow as well, a quarter or half inch. None on the roads.

About the seasons and blooming shrubbery conversation from the other day:
We live at the top of a small hill in Sammamish that gains about 300 feet of elevation over about 3/4 mile. I noticed yesterday that the cherry trees near the bottom of the hill were in bloom but the ones near the top were still budding. It's explainable, but still amazing when seasonal status changes so much along our relatively small STREET.

HarrisonCZ7 said...

Very good thoughts. You'll need to consult with a team made up of various parties and conduct market research to even see if there would be any interest (need or wants) for the museum. Being from marketing myself, I know it's imperative to clearly lay-out what you'd like to have happen. Awesome idea, but I would think of the marketing research and funding issues. I even thought it would be cool to have you (or anyone else for that matter who is qualified) to give lectures at the museum. We could draw from our GEG office and put together a good marketing plan going forward so one could get this rolling. First step, identify the issue then come up with hypotheses. Start with the exploratory stage and work from there, then descriptive, etc.

garyLambda said...

"storm meals"..what, cold uncooked soup and a can of beans heated over a candle??? If you stay for the full weekend package, you get warm curdle'y milk and almost gone bad bacon?

I did note that "Weather professionals" would benefit from this museum.... And I suppose if it was in Ocean shores we could sound the tsunami alarm when it was time to go home and let everyone see that there would be no way to safely evacuate in time.

Joseph Ratliff said...

Storm Meals...LOL...I have certainly done my fair share of breaking out the propane BBQ in freezing weather to cook Macaroni n' Cheese for the kids etc...

It's a NW tradition between November and February at least once a year (on the coast 5 or times) :)

serial catowner said...

To put it bluntly, I'm sure we've all had it up to here with 'tourist attractions' that disappoint, and the coast area has always been heavy with those.

I would call for a 'distributed' museum, with links between off-season discounts at motels, beach parks and viewpoints where famous wrecks or rocks can be seen, notoriously rainy places &etc. Probably most people today travel with a laptop, so building keyword links on the internet and getting on to other weather blog link menus would be important.

I'm sure there is a 'market' for this. I personally prefer to visit the coast off season to feel the wind and see the waves splashing. It's a bit far to go on the off chance of finding a storm in full hue, but, again, computer links could help people understand their chances of finding a full-bodied low coming ashore.

There's even a rumor that the interesting drift turns up after a storm. Could be, could be...

andycottle said...

I to like the idea of the "Storm Museaum". If it really does come together, I think it would be of great value to learn about PNW storms.

Along with other ideas to put in it that have shared so far....here`s one that we could all learn more about. Micro climates.

Someone on here mentioned about "Storm meals". We`ll for starters, how about one called the "PSCZ breakfast meal". Then for lunch, there could be something called the "High pressure meal".LOL! And lastly, how about an evening meal named "Storm force".

Jim said...

For those looking for exhibits related to PNW storms, I have two suggestions. Go to the maritime museum at the wharf in Astoria, OR. There they have displays of Coast Guard surf rescue boats at work, etc.

Also, as Cliff mentioned, the North Head Lighthouse at Ilwaco is a favorite place for us. The view from the lighthouse is pretty awesome during a storm or when there is a storm surge coming ashore. A short ways from there is the Lewis & Clark museum. It sits on the bluff overlooking the "graveyard of the Pacific"- the Columbia River bar and jetty. Inside the museum are displays of the Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard with pictures of shipwrecks, etc.. From the windows you can watch as ships and fishing vessels make their way through the channel and over the bar, sometimes the waves are HUGE. And the sea lions love to play in the surf along the jetty. Just don't hike out on the jetty if the surf is up ....unless you want to visit Davey Jones' Locker...!

Jim said...

For those looking for exhibits related to PNW storms, I have two suggestions. Go to the maritime museum at the wharf in Astoria, OR. There they have displays of Coast Guard surf rescue boats at work, etc.

Also, as Cliff mentioned, the North Head Lighthouse at Ilwaco is a favorite place for us. The view from the lighthouse is pretty awesome during a storm or when there is a storm surge coming ashore. A short ways from there is the Lewis & Clark museum. It sits on the bluff overlooking the "graveyard of the Pacific"- the Columbia River bar and jetty. Inside the museum are displays of the Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard with pictures of shipwrecks, etc.. From the windows you can watch as ships and fishing vessels make their way through the channel and over the bar, sometimes the waves are HUGE. And the sea lions love to play in the surf along the jetty. Just don't hike out on the jetty if the surf is up ....unless you want to visit Davey Jones' Locker...!

Jim said...

For those looking for exhibits related to PNW storms, I have two suggestions. Go to the maritime museum at the wharf in Astoria, OR. There they have displays of Coast Guard surf rescue boats at work, etc.

Also, as Cliff mentioned, the North Head Lighthouse at Ilwaco is a favorite place for us. The view from the lighthouse is pretty awesome during a storm or when there is a storm surge coming ashore. A short ways from there is the Lewis & Clark museum. It sits on the bluff overlooking the "graveyard of the Pacific"- the Columbia River bar and jetty. Inside the museum are displays of the Lighthouse Service and Coast Guard with pictures of shipwrecks, etc.. From the windows you can watch as ships and fishing vessels make their way through the channel and over the bar, sometimes the waves are HUGE. And the sea lions love to play in the surf along the jetty. Just don't hike out on the jetty if the surf is up ....unless you want to visit Davey Jones' Locker...!

Jim said...

Yikes! Sorry for the multiple posts!

Steve said...

I like the museum idea, but then, I'm a sucker for museums.

You asked why people go to Cannon Beach instead of the WA coast For us, all the cars allowed on the beach in WA make us nuts. We've almost been run over multiple times.

camco said...

Cliff, c'mon. You clearly don't realize how severe the economic crisis is. My kids face the most grim future imaginable --no jobs, war, famine, disease. A weather museum might stoke your ego, but it's a sick joke for those of us who have to work for a living and raise kids in these times.

Julia said...

Rather than Westport, I'd go for the Long Beach Peninsula. People like to see museums in clusters and the one in Astoria is great (agree with Jim there)so to have something on the WA side within short travel distance of Astoria would be very interesting. Ilwaco, Seaview,Long Beach. All have good places for families to stay and other things to do. They did a great job down there with the Lewis and Clark bicentennial and may have something of a community organization structure to put something together. Tough to put a museum together in these economic times....but good thinking can done and perhaps some ingenuity for gradual achievement of long term plan. And weather watching in the PNW is easily available entertainment and educational......as one can see with this blog.

HarrisonCZ7 said...

Don't bash the ideas cause your particular situation might not be the brightest. You play the cards you are dealt. This is something that would probably receive funding from private parties anyways, if it were to happen. Just because your family is suffering (which is horrible), doesn't mean you should belittle another's idea. Serial - That's apart of the exploratory stage of the research process. That's valuable material when one is looking to start a project like this. Such marketing research would be demanded. Personally, it's an interesting idea.

shari said...

If you could get APL at the UW to add underwater cameras or video of all the ships wrecked off the coast, that would be even better! And don't forget a K-12 education component (storm tracking, history, etc.) for such a museum.

Austin said...

I think the best way to get this kind of movement started is to get a few restaurants, etc. to try some of the ideas you suggested and THEN get some travel blogger/writer type folks out to write about their experiences. Once the cat is out of the bag regarding how much fun/exciting the experience is, then you'll have people coming out to the coast for the experience and will have momentum (and more money) for a museum. It's sort of a "if you build it, they will come" kind of problem, I think.
As a traveler, I've never come out to the coast for the weather, but I may have to do that next winter.

Austin Hill - Seattle
Editor/Co-Founder Travellious.com

Plasmanoir said...

What would a PNW Storm Museum be with out an exhibit on WAVES - especially if it were located on the coast?

JewelyaZ said...

camco said:
Cliff, c'mon. You clearly don't realize how severe the economic crisis is. My kids face the most grim future imaginable --no jobs, war, famine, disease. A weather museum might stoke your ego, but it's a sick joke for those of us who have to work for a living and raise kids in these times.

Camco, I have to work for a living but my husband and I have both been laid off from our permanent jobs over the past two months. Our personal economic outlook is grim. We are raising a 15 yo, a 9 yo, and an 11 month old.

I personally feel that the most important thing I can teach my children is resilience and adaptability. Our kids are learning about how to have fun for no money, making food dollars stretch further, conserving electricity and energy, and keeping a positive outlook in the face of difficulty.

Yes, they face a difficult future. That's no reason to be grim or even to be extremely negative. Our grandparents survived the Depression by helping each other and making do -- that's what we have to do too, and getting to know our neighbors has been a wonderful part of it so far.

Are there days I don't want to get out of bed? You'd better believe it. But I do. The kids need to see that not having a job doesn't make me a useless, despondent, negative person. The bad economy doesn't mean we should trash the planet or other people.

And a weather museum might help kids LEARN how to deal with our changing climate, how to adapt, how to help the plants and animals around them. I don't think it's a waste of time or money... it's certainly worth a hell of a lot more than a Qwest Field, a Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Garden, or even a revamped Seattle Center, in my opinion -- but those projects are done.

Pat Timm said...

Ocean Shores would be the best location, easy access from I-5 etc. And the wind always blows there. They also have an interpretive center there as well. Sounds like a great idea.

dave said...

well cliff, this goes along with an idea i've had for quite awhile about pitching the need for costal radar to the gates foundation for funding. the idea is the education system throughout the puget sound area would be more functional if administrators and transportation people could better predict when weather will probably impact getting to and from school. i assume you have student projects and seminar groups that could research the potential monetary impact on school systems if they were truly able to decide when students should and shouldn't expect to go to class.

it might make sense to offer your museum and the costal weather radar as a package and see if the foundation would fund all or part of the proposal.

assuming good 'homework' and a tight prospectus, wouldn't hurt to ask . . ..

regards,

t

Alan said...

Great idea. When I was a kid in the late 50's/early 60's our family camped at Kalaloch every Thanksgiving weekend and we witnessed some terrific storms. That was a highlight of each trip, but sometimes they made getting back to Seattle a little challenging with trees down across Hwy 101.

Joe said...

BC is way ahead of you. Well, they don't have a storm museum (though the West Coast Trail amounts to a shipwreck tour of sorts) but the hotels and restaurants around Tofino have been promoting winter storm tourism for many years now.

Jim said...

Here's the local Tofino, BC web site's take on the local weather:
"Tofino Weather Station, located at the Long Beach Airport"
Locals say, stand outside and face north to Lone Cone Mountain on Meares Island. If you cannot see Lone Cone, it’s raining. If you can see Lone Cone that means it’s about to rain. Beyond that, call Tofino’s weather station and a “real human” will tell you the forecast during regular business hours. Locals will also tell you, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.
Phone the Weather Station: 250-725-3384"

Jim said...

off topic a little:
Q13/Fox weather lady said tonight that western WA April will trend cooler than normal. June and July will be warmer than normal. She said it was because of ocean temperatures. Any comments?

WeatherNerd said...

CPC on the NWS website has been showing cooler than normal temps for quite some time now. They had December thru April cooler than normal. They predict in 3 month increments with months overlapping and show April/May/June and May/June/July as being cooler than normal. If I remember correctly, they have been showing this for a long time now. Sure feels like they have been on target, huh? :)

andycottle said...

June and July will be warmer than normal? Last I read(last week) that la-nina may continue through month of May then perhaps going netural think it was. So not sure that will contribute warmer than normal temps around here.

MBeebe said...

Cliff,

Any comments on the insane wind speeds up at Camp Muir on Rainer today? 125 max gust at 800 hours, with a minimum of 81mph and an average of 100mph -- is that common for that location?

weather1 said...

Great idea

mjgrota said...

Not sure if the tourism folks really want to highlight "bad" weather realities that occur in our coastal communities. At least you won't have to struggle about a name for the food court in the place. RADAR CAFE ....

Daren said...

I love the idea of a museum dedicated to the fury of our local weather. As an architect I find immense potential in creating a building that would allow one to learn about and experience the elements that we all find so intereting. I have some ideas, so if the idea begins to take root I would be honored if you gave me a call to help with siting and initial concepts.
Keep up the good work on the blog.
Daren Doss
chadbournedoss.com