Monday, November 9, 2009

The Storms of The Pacific Museum

What does our Pacific coast have? Marvelous, thrilling, and sometimes scary winter storms. What else does it have? Big waves moving off the Pacific. What else? A major threat of tsunamis. Even more! Extraordinary precipitation on the coastal mountains and floods.

People are fascinated with these weather, ocean, and geological phenomena--the large crowds on the coast on Saturday for viewing the large incoming waves illustrates this.

Add this all together and what do you get?...a major opportunity for tourism and economic development for our central Washington coastal community!

Stay with me now. Imagine a Storms of the Pacific Museum at some coastal location--perhaps in Westport or Ocean Shores. You enter the museum, perhaps with a soundtrack of a roaring Pacific storm in the background. One wing might describe the major windstorms that have savaged the region: Jan 1921, Oct 1962, Dec 07 are just a few that come to mind. Another wing has exhibits describing the impact of strong winds on the region's forests. Another area describes how big ocean waves are formed and reviews some of the large wave situations that have caused damage and loss. Another section would talk about how tsunamis are formed and tells about some major cases. A separate room could talk about the heavy rainfall on the windward side of the coastal mountains and the resulting floods. The shipwreck wing will tell about the hundreds of shipwrecks on our coast, while another room could document the dangers of the Columbia Bar. And more general exhibits on regional weather could be thrown in. And perhaps a room on our coastal fishery and the impact of storms.

Of course, there would be a gift shop and a nice place to eat. And lets not stop there...an observatory on the roof would be mandatory and a weather station on premises. And a screen with the latest coastal radar imagery would of course be included. Add a theater with a movie on regional windstorms. Want to make it exciting? Have a windstorm experience room with sounds, a blower system and background imagery.Viewing Tower At Westport Attracts a Crowd to Watch the Waves, Photo by Mellisa Brown

Such a museum would not simply be a hit. It would be a megahit and would became a major attraction that would bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the coast each year. Employment for hundreds, if you include the restaurants and hotels it would fill.

Now lets not stop there. During the winter, the museum would organize "storm parties" and would coordinate with local hotels and bed and breakfasts--filling many of them. For such events, local scientists, meteorologists, oceanographers, historians, and others could be invited to speak. There is a major industry in Oklahoma and environs for storm chasing...with a dozen or so firms selling "tours" for thousands of dollars. What we have is better and far more dependable.

Restaurants could offer special "storm meals." (have you ever tried "cyclone stew" or "beach-breach biscuts"?) We are talking about an economic boon for a region that surely could use it.

Now I should not claim credit for this idea....rather, the idea of a storm museum was first suggested to me by Arthur Grunbaum, a local resident and an dedicated supporter of the coastal radar acquisition.

I really believe this museum would flourish...but the local community would have to take it up and run with it. Perhaps a local Congressman (Norm Dicks) or one of our U.S. Senators could help find some of the support needed to get this going. Perhaps some stimulus funding could found. Other locations have created popular coastal museums (e.g., Hilton Head, http://www.coastaldiscovery.org/)...why can't we?

36 comments:

zmb said...

Love the idea :) Would like to see if it did happen.

Jim said...

We visited the coast, weekend before last. The sun came out. We had a beautiful full moon rise as the sun set over the Pacific. We watched along with probably a dozen other souls at Ruby Beach near Kalaloch. No crowd, no traffic, no people cluttering up the scenery.

At the lodge, a handful of diners ate together at the only restaurant along that whole strip of coastline. The waitress mentioned it was her last night before being laid off due to the slowness of their business. Half the rooms were vacant Saturday night.

The Hoh rainforest was dripping from the previous night's showers as the filtered morning sun illuminated the drops hanging from the moss and ferns in the trees. It was spectacular against the blue sky. Maybe a dozen cars parked at the visitor center. License plates from a few different states along with military window stickers indicated several visitors were probably stationed nearby.

Forks is now surviving on the current movie fad from "Twilight" (whatever that's about). Mid afternoon Sunday on the main street: quiet. Chinese buffet: busy.

We watched the sunset from Hurricane ridge as the fog filled the Elwah River valley below. Snow still powdered the firs on the north-facing slope. We made it out the gate before the ranger pulled it closed. A fine end to a fine weekend on the Olympic Coast. 500 miles round trip from home.

sandiT said...

Perhaps someday a weather museum would be nice. At the moment we have the Pacific Science Center in Seattle which could host such and exhibit. At the moment I am very concerned essentials to our community such as animal control services can no longer be funded. Museums with redundant services are luxuries at present, it is not the time to discuss it, it just feels wrong.

coffeeman said...

Cliff - I'm less optimistic than you about such a museum being a huge hit, however I do believe that it would draw some visitors.

That said, if you decide to take it on as a cause, Westport BADLY needs such a draw. They have one ofundering museum right now, but the town is pretty well a ghost town compared to say, ocean shores. As a pilot, this is one of my favorite little towns to fly to from Renton, and it saddens me to see the rows of empty shop windows. Anything to help their tourism economy would be a huge boon to the town.

The people there are lovely, and the scenery even better. They just need more people to see that!

Cliff Mass Weather Blog said...

Sandit,
I understand your concerns, but the idea is to bring MORE money into your community that would allow the funding of the essentials you talk about. An attraction that bring people to the coast and invigorate the economy. ...cliff

Julia said...

I really do love the idea and the area badly needs something. Its another form of ecotourism really.

It's virtues are many - keep beating the drum. I would definitely take my kids.

The big problem is location - and that's part of Westport's problem as well. It's over an hour from Ocean Shores to Westport and somewhat isolated - not on the way TO anywhere.

If there were a passenger ferry from Ocean Shores to Westport, then it could make sense to put it in Westport and draw people over who are visiting Ocean Shores. But by itself, I don't think the museum will be enough to bring people 1.5 hours each way. Ocean Shores is a more logical place - but I feel the pain of those in Westport. They do need a bigger revitalization project.

snapdragon said...

If you build it, they will come.

I LOVE the idea and would visit with my kiddo. (Would also take pictures and scrapbook the entire event.)

Big White Ball said...

Absolute requirements for such a place: a fantastic glass-walled viewing area to take in some of those storms. Which would mean the place would need to be pretty close to the ocean itself. I can see enjoying a mug of hot cider or similar, gazing out with an unobstructed view of the roiling sea.

Joseph Ratliff said...

I think a museum such as this would be an excellent addition to the "culture on the coast." Of course, it would have to be built with those very storms in mind :) .

mainstreeter said...

Maybe look at the Maritime museum in Astoria to compare it's visitor numbers over the years. I like the Oregon Coast better as a location. Westport has never excited me.

Leif said...

Perhaps it could even have a big screen radar image from our "NEW" coastal radar.

RLL said...

Sounds good to me!

shari said...

Don't forget to include an exhibit on the shipwrecks, aka "The Graveyard of the Pacific"! They are all amazing stories in and of themselves. There could be a memorial and extensive exhibit to honor the thousands of lives and vessels lost.

Paul said...

There is a ferry between Westport & Ocean Shores (though, obviously, not during storm season):

http://www.oceanshoresguide.com/activities/ferry.htm

Alan said...

Make sure there are no trees standing near the storm observatory!

pimaCanyon said...

Just what the world needs, another museum, another tourist draw. As if the wild coastline is not enough draw by itself.

I say leave the WA coast wild and lonesome! Let the tourons go elsewhere.

mmegaera said...

I would so go to that. AAMOF, when I finish my museum certification, I would give my eyeteeth to work there.

jay said...

We chose to have our wedding at beach three, a few miles north of Kalaloch, on December 29th a couple years ago. The weather did not disappoint: there was a brief break in the rain, wind, and ice just long enough for a ceremony. But all hell broke loose afterwards... as we hoped it would.

A trip to a storm museum would bring back great memories.

dconca said...

Great idea Cliff,
a partnership with tribes,the Park Service and marine Sanctuary??

dconca said...

Seeems like a great opportunity for multi-agency/government partnership-i.e. tribes, park service, marine sanctuary, weather service, etc.

Mike said...

Cliff- What's a Madden-Julian Oscillation event and what does it mean for the PNW? What makes it different than a Pineapple Express?

32.5 East said...

People who really love nature, the environment, etc. don't experience it in a museum. Museum exhibits typically are aimed at those who have no real interest in the subject and are taking a break from their job or consumerism to visit an "attraction".

Museums that might give the public a great appreciation for an important conservation issue can do some good but that clearly wouldn't apply to this proposed museum. Suggesting that public funds - and even stimulus funds - be used just shows how much the pork barrel mentality has blinded some to our country's current economic condition.

Charlie Phillips said...

I really like the idea. I like Wolf Read's website on major storms enough already; I would love to see it all in a museum.
Also, Cliff, I'm not sure if you remember me but I'm Charlie Phillips, now a junior at Garfield High School. My family is very close friends with Charlie Eriksen, whom introduced me to you at your talk last year on extreme weather events in the Pacific Northwest. I also have a weather blog @ charliesweatherforecasts.blogspot.com and I was wondering if you could take a look at it and tell me what you think. Thank you and I really enjoy your blog.

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

Plus sounds like a mojo event shaping up as Mike said

JewelyaZ said...

Charlie, I'm not Cliff, but I am a professional technical writer of almost 20 years and I like what you've done with your blog! Keep up the good work... I am going to point my stepdaughter, who is a freshman at Sammamish, to your blog as an example of "what high school kids can do" next time she whines that "high school kids don't get to do anything real."

It seems to me you just DECIDE to do something real, and then DO it. I've tried to say that to her, but your site illustrates my point way better than any words I can say. :-)

Joe Anderson said...

Sounds like a wonderful idea!

Charlie Phillips said...

Thank you! Yeah I've always had a fascination for weather. Writing it is fun and rewarding, and lots of kids at my school appreciate it. I want to be a meteorologist when I grow up and I figured that this would be a good place to start.

mjgrota said...

Cliff must be spending a lot of time at the ISOBAR, knocking back a few. Still think he is planning on a run for Mayor of Westport.

Interesting idea regarding placing a museum here in the NW. Seems like it might be better at the University or on the NOAA Campus.
Cliff could still open the Radar bike shop and Convergence Zone Cafe on the coast.

On a more serious note Cliff would you care to update us on the snow/ski pass predictions of 14 Sept. Never did see if Jim Forman bought a lift pass.

smokejumper said...

I believe the last time we had a sodo mojo event was the 95 M's!!!

natchrl8r said...

The Museum idea sounds great and would definitely be a destination for me. It is most appropriate on the coast where most weather arrives in our region. So many great ideas! There will always be naysayers but the balance is that it would provide good jobs, educate and become a much more worthy draw than "vampire seekers".

RLL said...

Res real nature lovers don't need a museum

We have likely looked at nature and admired it for all of our evolutionary history. It was not until the advent of science that we had the deeper appreciation of also understanding it, at least in part.

henk said...

Wow, nice.

Bit far to travel, but the weather is getting pretty good here at http://www.lyndhurst-hill.info

[url=http://www.lyndhurst-hill.info][img]http://www.lyndhurst-hill.info/wxgraphic/wxgraphic.php?type=banner_big[/img][/url]

32.5 East said...

RLL:
Ask anyone seriously interested in having deeper appreciation and understanding of any aspect of nature if they get that from a museum.
Birders are probably the best example. Museums are not built for them - and certainly not at birding destinations - since part of the activity is having the outdoor experience. Museums away from big cities tend to be built by someone trying to make money by giving the bored tourist a reason to pull of the road.

mariagut10 said...

A museum takes more than just the drive to start it and open it's doors -it's a long term commitment that requires sustained funding. Do some research into how museums are funded and you'll find that admission does NOT cover expenses. Other sources of funding come from grants for continuing exhibition creation (necessary to keep local people coming in, your main source of visitors); and usually support from the city & state in which they're located. I have years of experience in science museums and a museum studies degree, so the caution is not without some experience to back it up. An exhibition might be a good first step in exploring the idea and gauging level of support, PSC might be approached, or more likely, the Burke Museum on the UW campus. Then you would have developed a first installation at the same time!

Weather Is My Life said...

The museum is a wonderful idea. It can supplement the actual experience of people traveling to the coast for the weather. The word "storms" suggests something not so good though, but it would be fine.