In the last week, Oklahoma City has had temperatures ranging from the 20s to the 70s. Oklahoma's unpredictable weather made me think about the National Weather Center in Norman.
Did you know they have regular tours of the facility? When entering the building, one can't help but notice the Science on a Sphere. It's like a projector screen on steroids, and it's a mesmerizing, almost hypnotic way to view the weather around the world.
The National Weather Center houses different divisions, one of which is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Storm Prediction Center. The center is responsible for issuing all the tornado and severe thunderstorm watches for all 48 contiguous states. The center is home to five NOAA offices. The research taking place here is impressive as meteorologists work every day to understand more about the weather that can dominate our lives.
The NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office, covering central Oklahoma, is also located here, as is the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. If you've ever wondered where “weather central” can be found, it's right here in Norman. When you take a tour, you'll get fascinating information on how this all works.
They have it all — from the high tech to the low tech. On the low-tech side, you can see examples of some of the devices sent into the heart of violent storms, most never to be seen again. Want to see what the vehicles used by serious storm scientists look like up close? You'll find them here, too. Packed full of gear and state-of-the-art equipment, it's a testament to the men and women who literally chase storms and tornadoes, reporting and gathering data.
This is a meteorologist's playroom. Students and scientists are constantly learning. It's interesting that there are windows everywhere. And when storms approach, some of the rooms are packed with people on laptops collecting the ever-changing data that's coming in at any given moment.
Weather affects all of us, rain or shine, day or night, whether it's stormy or simply one of those beautiful days that we commit to memory. And if you are looking for a different place to tour and at the same time get a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the people and technology used to study this phenomenon called weather, the tour guides at the National Weather Center will be happy to accommodate you.
The tours are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1 p.m. You must sign up before you can attend by going online to www.nwc.ou.edu/tours.
For a list of fascinating places to tour throughout Oklahoma, to go www.TravelOK.com.
Dino Lalli is the producer, a reporter and co-host of the weekly TV travel show AAA's Discover Oklahoma.