Friday, February 17, 2017
This is the first Saturday of the NOMADS week so we slept in a little, had breakfast and then drove north about an hour to Norman, OK. Gwen and Gary went with us. Our target was the University of Oklahoma (OU) campus, but before we went there we stopped at Jason’s Deli for lunch. We all enjoyed our food, especially the free ice cream. After lunch it was on to OU for our 1:00 tour of the National Weather Center. The tours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but they do not allow walk-ins. You must preregister online. The National Weather Center is a 250,000 sqft, 5 story building housing the OU meteorology school, as well as the center for climatology, the National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center, the NWS Norman Forecast Office and other university and government offices. There was a short video before the tour began and then an OU student lead our tour. We had a large group which included several high school seniors who were considering attending OU. The first stop on the tour was the observation deck on the top floor. There is an outside deck as well as an inside/glass walled area ideal for watching storms approach. From the observation area you can see a long way. With no hills/mountains to block your view it would be a great place for watching storms and tornadoes move in. There is all sorts of equipment on the roof gathering information to assist in forecasting and research. From there we moved to the 5th floor which houses the OU School of Meteorology. There are all the necessary offices, research areas and labs to support the school.
On to the 2nd floor, and we visited the Storm Prediction Center and the local weather office. All severe thunder storm watches and tornado watches for the lower 48 states are issued by the Storm Prediction Center as large polygons.
Once the polygons are drawn, the local forecast offices determine which counties in their forecast areas are included in the watch. There are at least 4 people on duty in the SPC at all times to follow the weather systems moving across the US. Doesn’t really seem like enough people to cover the entire country.
The tour ended at the Flying Cow Cafe – a reference to the cows in the movie “Twister”. In the lobby just outside the cafe is a display of three weather sensor pods – two fake ones that were used as props in the movie “Twister” and a real one use by the NWS to try to capture readings inside a tornado. Dorothy (left) and D. O. T. (center) are the props. Toto (right) is real.
The tour was interesting, but somewhat disappointing. We had hoped for more time spent touring the NWS offices, but most of the tour seemed to be a recruiting effort for the OU meteorology school.
After leaving the weather center, we made a stop at Sprouts Grocery store. They had some really good looking fruits and veggies at nice prices today. We loaded up on fruits and veggies since our grocery stores are limited in Elmore City and Maysville. We will have some good food in our lunches next week..
Hope everyone has a great weekend because we are!