Preserving storm chasing history

Discussion in 'Introductory weather & chasing' started by Dan Robinson, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    As some of you might have read in this thread "An era of storm chasing vanishing", we discovered through building ST's event archive that much of the material from storm chasing past has/is being lost.

    The probable facts contributing to this are:

    • Roughly 90% of storm chaser web sites from the 1990-2010 era have disappeared from the internet, taking with them many pictures, videos and chase accounts from iconic/memorable events. For example, only a handful of chase accounts from Mulvane exist online today.
    • Post-2010, most of today's chasers only post intercept pictures and brief accounts on social media, which quickly get buried as time goes on. These posts and pictures are usually not indexed by search engines, nor do the social media platforms themselves offer any easy way for a visitor to find these after the fact (the only way is to scroll a very long way down a user's feed).
    • As chasers age, there tends to be lesser participation in the community and little to no motivation/willingness to share accounts and images.

    So, what can we do to preserve the past? Is it worth preserving? Is there any community-wide desire to see our generation of chasing preserved for those that will enter the hobby in the future, even after we're gone?

    Blake Naftel's Storm Chasing Anthology promises to be an excellent vehicle to help accomplish this, but I'm thinking we could expand on that here in some way. The Storm Chasing Event Archive might be a start to some future online repository. Right now the Event Archive is a cursory summary with links - I'm wondering if it might be possible to start including images and accounts permanently hosted here on ST. The Reports threads already have that to some degree, but if you go back to the older ones, most if not all of the images and links are broken due the the chaser site being long gone.

    Any ideas/interest in something moving forward?
     
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    #1 Dan Robinson, Dec 24, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
  2. Bob Schafer

    Bob Schafer Member

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    Taking the subject to a slightly higher plateau, and I've said this for years in informal settings, but

    Why is there no National Storm Chasing Museum and Hall of Fame?

    If you think about it for about 5 seconds, it really is a travesty and there is no way that it won't eventually happen. No way. The only question is when. It sometimes takes decades or longer for such recognition to occur at historical sites and for historical events. For example, the Sand Creek Massacre in Eastern CO didn't become nationally recognized and formally dedicated until very recently. I say it's desirable for the NSCM&HoF to be established sooner rather than later, and it ought to be in Norman.

    What will be the impetus? When will it happen?
     
  3. Blake W. Naftel

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    What to preserve, and what to let go of? Both genuine questions. Ultimately, we cannot take this stuff with us, and even in the now, who wants to keep living in the past? Certainly the drive to maintain/archive visual benchmarks inspire/educate others in aspects of severe weather documentation, meteorology, and the overall evolution of storm chasing activities is a worthwhile cause. The positive is that material which was on the web between 1990-2010 still plentifully exists in analog or digital form either on physical videotape, celluloid film, or file-base mediums both in private collections, and in the vast archive assembled for this documentary series. While the HTML may be gone, the base material is not.

    The present archive for the Storm Chasing Anthology consists of over 2000+ pieces of original individual media including videotape, motion picture film, slides, original printed artwork, hand-crafted diagrams from the Spotters' Guide series, and countless newspapers/documents. I have not even tackled the overabundance of digital storm clutter, nor to I want to at this time. Form the beginning, a long-term goal is to use the Storm Chasing Anthology series as a visual pitch towards the creation of a universally accessible multimedia archive of severe weather/storm chasing history, preferably housed in an academic or museum based setting. There is absolutely no need to preserve everything, but, with the ease of maintaining a "cloud" archiving system synced with GIS (Geographic Information System) software, such an archive is possible. In some form, it's already underway at the University of Oklahoma/National Weather Center, although in a much smaller form, and restricted to text-base information (not multimedia rich, yet). In time, a cloud archive will happen, but requires the assistance of qualified archivists, graduate/undergraduate students involved with library science, journalism, and GIS; and first and foremost, a widespread interest and funding to bring to fruition. The later is the most challenging aspect.

    @Bob Schafer | There actually is, finally, a National Weather Museum/Science Center established in Norman, Oklahoma maintained by Doug Forsyth. While it's in the early stages, this also could be an excellent venue to house a storm chaser cloud archive/database, and, have a physical museum space for such material. It's far more plausible to have one group space for public access, verses a separate "National Storm Chasing Museum". To the public, beyond the small niche that storm chasing culture has created for itself, there really is not significant public interest in the subject. I base that finding on overall interactions with the general public on the subject. Ask a man on the street in Chicago what the DOW, Dominator, or TOTO are, and 99% will have no clue (and it is pretty humorous to do so). Yet, broaden the subject out to everything weather history-related, and then it becomes publicly appealing as it's a subject every human being can identify with.

    Perhaps with the eventual completion of the Storm Chasing Anthology, it will spur on others to develop what Dan is proposing? Tomorrow never knows. The very organization of such material will take a lot of time, and certainly more than one or two individuals. It's all about collaboration, communication, and sharing an interest with a broader public. As technology continues to expand, such a historical archive would be worthwhile to maintain in some form, and personally, there are many who would like to see this happen as well.
     
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  4. Bob Schafer

    Bob Schafer Member

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    Counterpoint: There is a National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, and it is in Leadville, Colorado. http://mininghalloffame.org/ I have been through it a couple of times, and it is very interesting. There are not many movies and television shows made about mining, but look at all the media about chasing, so I would argue that a museum and hall of fame solely for chasing would draw much more interest from the public than mining. That museum/HoF in Leadville has been there since 1977.

    Sure, it's just one wild, off-the-wall comparison, I understand that, but don't sell the public's interest in chasers short.
     
  5. Warren Faidley

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    So who would decide which chasers are allowed into a hall of fame? This would be the ultimate land mine topic... even surpassing light bars. The bottom line is who cares about storm chasing anymore. There is not enough structure or discipline within the chase community to support it. However, I would consider supporting a "clowns of storm chasing" hall of fame....LOL
     
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  6. Rick Schmidt

    Rick Schmidt Member

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    I would be more in favor of a museum/photo gallery of historic as well as photogenic tornadoes and storms, and leave the 'hall of fame storm chasers' out of it. An earlier post had mentioned something similar in place now. It could include video and brief descriptions, much like the museum in Greensburg. I think the' hall of fame storm chasers' idea is 'bush league'.
     
  7. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark Member

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    I totally agree with Dan and share his concerns about the history of storm chasing being lost. Blake Naftel's Storm Chasing Anthology is a good start and I believe it focuses on the chasers and chase as much as actual events. There is much more than what can be contained in just one prolog version that is in post production or the eventual six part series. He has collected a lot of material that can be eventually conserved and indexed. I do think StormTrack magazine is a great resource for older chase accounts. The information is out there, it just takes time, money and expertise to sort, index and make available in an organized manner. As for a "Storm Chaser Hall of Fame," I think there is too much subjective judgment on who would be included and it would be a recipe for disaster. Better to look at all chasers with an unbiased approach.

    I will say that Blake Naftel's Storm Chasing Anthology project when completed in the prolog version and eventual multipart series will be the best and most unbiased look at the history of storm chasing and storm chasers. Unfortunately, he is running this project on a very shoestring budget and more donations are needed. See website below:

    http://stormchasinghistory.net/

    Bill Hark
     
  8. Shawn Gossman

    Shawn Gossman Member

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    I ended up closing my chase blog because I felt I didn't have much to put on it. I pretty much just do local chases. A lot of you folks get out there and drive and drive and drive, that's cool but I just don't have the time for it. :( I suppose I am more of a spotter than a chaser - but that is good, too. :)

    I like this idea, though. Preserve away, I say!
     
  9. Warren Faidley

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    I believe there is a lot of historical data out there. The old archives of ST are excellent sources. Thanks to Dave and Tim M. / Tim V. for all the work they did. Facebook memorials are also good, but I'm not totally comfortable that they will always be around. Websites are very poor resources because when the domain expires, so does the page. It does bother me when chasing greats like Jim Leonard and others pass away with little archived historical data. Maybe it would be a good idea to "harvest" those pages before they are lost.

    Although historical video productions are good, it's impossible for most people who have some stake in chasing to produce them in an unbiased manner -- since no one wants to pay the price for offending anyone. (No offense to anyone). Just look at the hot button discussions on ST when certain subjects or people are named.

    The loss of history involving individual chasers is one thing, but our overall history is bigger than one person. I've been around long enough to see a trend developing where the ethics and business practices of chasing (especially over the last 8-9 years), as they apply to our history, are being slowly revised to appease and protect specific entities -- or to justify dishonest, misleading behavior. Such behavior is being totally disregarded in our history like it never existed, or there is some lame reasoning for making it historically unimportant.

    We cannot avoid the questions of why chasing is being viewed more and more as a less than favorable or sub-respected pursuit by the public, commercial interests, law enforcement, NWS offices and fellow chasers. You have to answer the question of what the hell happened to a hobby where most veterans have disappeared or why those who addressed "unpopular" topics or questioned irresponsible and / or misleading individuals were chastised for simply offering an opinion.

    It would take someone who is completely unafraid of retribution with an open mind to do a proper job of presenting our history. I'm certainly not that person and I seriously doubt anyone here is.

    W.
     
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  10. Blake W. Naftel

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    Regarding presenting an unbiased, journalistic approach to the topic of storm chasing. Not a simple task!

    Combining 112 opinions, perspectives, and backstories into a free-flowing historical evolution independently is incredibly tedious. Opinion being key here in regarded to fact-checking. The perk here is that I have been a part of this "culture" for three decades, so I do have a sincerely honest take on where to go with it, verses being an author or producer looking in. This is not an op-ed piece of the topic, and would be far easier if it were. Touching on people and benchmarks throughout this culture to represent it accurately, within a tolerable viewing time, can also serve as a bane to the post-production flow. This comes with the territory though.

    @Warren Faidley writes: << We cannot avoid the questions of why chasing is being viewed more and more as a less than favorable or sub-respected pursuit by the public, commercial interests, law enforcement, NWS offices and fellow chasers. You have to answer the question of what the hell happened to a hobby where most veterans have disappeared or why those who addressed "unpopular" topics or questioned irresponsible and / or misleading individuals were chastised for simply offering an opinion. >>

    These very questions were posed to everyone who choose to participate in an on-camera interview for the Storm Chasing Anthology. As there is no narration, the responses will be balanced and presented tactfully, as it would be quite simple to take a side and run with it for such a film/series. In fact there is so much material, this project could continue to carry on as mini-features for years to come.

    What "happened" to storm chasing culture? It just keeps evolving. Such is life, right?

    Benchmarks include: NOVA Tornado! 1985. The Weather Channel. Decade 90. The Internet. Communication. Money. Book Deals. Smart phones. Ease and availability of technology. Hollywood. Reality TV. Social media. ChaserCon. Storm Chasing Tours. Over-saturation of a subject. Media burnout of a once intriguing niche topic in modern weather culture. Personal evolutions such as: Having a family. Valuing people over water vapor. Shifting priorities. Economic and employment changes. Health issues. Death. These have all contributed to the shift of where storm chasing as an activity has grown to. The list can go on.

    In all due respect Warren, you were an early part of that very culture shift in the late 1980's. You inspired many whom are out there presently, and certainly honed your own drives, passions, and image into a business which then exploded into something perhaps even you could not foresee; yet David Hoadley wrote so eloquently about that very topic in the first issue of Stormtrack on December 31, 1977.

    It's happened to other hobbies / activities since, and will continue to do so. This is just the evolution of overall human culture, curiosity, and technology. It's not merely unique to storm chasing.

    There is no fear in treading into uncomfortable subjects, and those will be presented appropriately. Of course, there will be critics, that goes with the territory. This project was never intended to be slanted towards the negative aspects of the hobby, rather, the broad relationship we all have with the atmosphere, storm chaser or not. It's meant to showcase stories, an atmospheric science history, and I'll do my best to do just that.

    Thank you for bringing this topic of discussion up. It really does help to inspire the creative process when others are involved, let alone, interested in presenting a history accurately.

    Blake
     
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  11. Warren Faidley

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    These are all good points, but hard facts outweigh opinions in true historical productions. This is the very foundation of responsible journalism. Does a producer working on the "history of baseball" ignore steroid use or Pete Rose because it's an uncomfortable truth -- or do they revise or ignore actual history to avoid conflict. And saying nothing at all is often perceived as an acceptance of bad behavior. We are not talking about irresponsible or crazy chasing antics. That topic could be defined any number of ways and every chaser has a different opinion of what "reckless is." The uncomfortable truth involves chasers using deliberate, calculated and borderline actionable deceptions for personal gain within the scope of storm chasing, spotting, commerce, research, safety, etc. No matter what my, or anyone's opinion is, the facts include a detailed history of well-documented proof. Those events have altered the way people perceive chasers and chasing and is part of our history.

    Having said that, I agree your non-narrated format is likely not intended to expose such matters and will be based on historical opinion. Nothing wrong with that. Thankfully, the news media is slowly coming to their senses regarding the major issue(s) so they will have the honor of setting the record (and history) straight in the year(s) to come.

    W.
     
  12. Mark Blue

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    Everything I've seen from Blake thus far has been top notch and first class. Will he spend an hour of the documentary heaping all of the current problems with chasing squarely on the shoulders of Reed Timmer? I seriously doubt it, because no one is interested in an axe-grinding exercise that focuses on something so negative and unproductive. If that's what you want you can always produce your own documentary Warren where no one will squash your right to free speech. You were actually one of the chasers who inspired me to get into the hobby. I really wish you could just let it go and channel your energy into something you can control. Leading the way into the next chapter of chasing, wherever that may go.
     
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  13. Blake W. Naftel

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    Aside from some brief promotional segments, how can a well-rounded opinion be formed of a production that has yet to be screened or released? There is no reason to ignore hard facts, nor is it my intention to do so.

    << The uncomfortable truth involves chasers using deliberate, calculated and borderline actionable deceptions for personal gain within the scope of storm chasing, spotting, commerce, research, safety, etc. >>

    Who is this an uncomfortable truth to? A broad general public who sees all storm chasers as crazy? That mindset is nothing new, and was pioneered by cable specials and home video releases which you and I were both a part of in the 1990's and early 2000's. These topics could be taken in a multitude of ways, and make up an entire film alone! There were several people interviewed who touched on what you have listed above, but stated it eloquently enough in which it can be presented with visual documented "fact". It's not going to be the highlight of the initial release / and or an attendant series. It certainly could be, but that's a slanted presentation, unless one focuses completely and accurately on those topics in a balanced, factual fashion.

    Storm chasing does not have mass public appeal, nor do I see the "media" doing anything creative with the topic beyond what has been and continues to be produced. Cue dramatic music, personalities, tragedy, the "OMG" sound bytes, and overabundant use of CGI. This has remained the formula of broadcast and documentary storm chasing / tornado productions for the past 20 years. It's an exhausted format, and has become passé. The media tapped that turbulent tornado chaser keg beginning in the mid-1980's, more-so 1995-99, until we all witnessed the crest fade in the days and weeks following May 31, 2013. Having worked directly within the broadcast industry up until departing to produce this film series, the idea that news managers and producers will seek to focus on such topics is so minimal in contrast to far more outstanding nation and worldwide issues at hand. The topic does not, nor likely will never fall into the same cultural pedigree as various national past (or present) times, let alone garner enough interest to contrast benchmark historical periods in American history (i.e. The Civil War, Prohibition, The 1960's, etc). It does however offer up many stories, generationally, that are worth preserving for those who have an invested interest in them, can learn from the past, and inspire to do better in the future. We're all passionate about something, why stifle it?

    That's all I'm trying to do here. Once completed, I'll move on to other creative endeavors, nor let the subject dominate me (pun intended) for the rest of my days. Life is too short for that.

    Blake
     
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  14. Warren Faidley

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    I honestly appreciate your remarks Mark, but this is not about "me" or an axe to grind with another chaser and I've failed in my discussion if that is what people think this is all about -- not about addressing historical accuracy. I've also been careful not to use names out of respect for ST rules, so people can (or not) associate comments to whomever they please. Nor do I believe an entire production should focus on attacking a chaser, that's silly.

    Nor am I the only person who feels so strong about this subject matter -- by far. Others have raised the exact same concerns and some of those people are much further up the chasing evolution ladder than me. Some have been called "hateful," "angry," etc., which is all hogwash. I don't expect them to back me up, they never have since I first started chasing, but a person should be able to express concerns or opinions without fear. Many of those individuals are simply too afraid to speak up because they fear retribution, name calling or blacklisting in the chase community. The last time I addressed this topic in a public forum, I received death threats, post-alterations, etc.

    From what I've seen of the project, I agree, it's a well done production and I can only imagine the amount of work it requires. I appreciated the opportunity to be interviewed for the project, but I turned it down.
     
  15. Brett Roberts

    Brett Roberts Experienced Member

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    What an odd sidetrack (or should I say threadjack?) this great thread took after only five posts. I'd be really confused if I were a newer member who hadn't seem this same shtick before in at least a dozen other threads.

    As I scroll through the latter portion of the thread, I'm served bleak images of a post-apocalyptic nightmare in the world of storm chasing. Thankfully, while entertaining, it seems to be entirely fictional. These descriptions bear little resemblance to what I see and experience on the road, as someone who's chased a ton over the past decade. It sure would be a shame if such a nightmare world saw "most veterans disappear," since they've contributed so much and blazed the trail for our modern-day pursuits. Thankfully, as far as I'm aware, pioneers like Tim M., David H., Gene M., and innumerable others are still chasing as relentlessly as ever and are welcomed with open arms -- even celebrated -- by the large majority of the community, young and old. It's a great time to be a storm chaser! And I think most veterans who aren't hung up on old-hat drama would agree.

    So with that being said, I'll attempt to get back on-track. I really love the idea that Dan proposes in his original post, although we seem to be drifting away from it a bit. Specifically, I think building out the "Storm Chasing Event Archive" already present on Stormtrack would be an ideal solution for aggregating all the data, images, video and stories that the community is willing to share. I have a ton of respect and enthusiasm for what Blake is doing -- it will be an untouchable monument to the "who," "what" and "how" of our hobby. What I believe Dan is talking about, though -- or at least what I'm most concerned with personally -- is complimenting Blake's project with a thorough record of the "where" and "when" of specific storm chase events. A Wikipedia-style log of everything we know about every significant chase day we have the collective energy to tackle. With a little initial legwork by the staff here, it would be relatively easy to do this going forward for new events -- if each chaser would just take a little time to contribute his or her own material to the archive alongside posts on social media, REPORTS threads, etc. Addressing years and decades of previous events will be the challenge, but I think it's one well worth taking on for posterity.

    Personally, I would be willing to contribute low-resolution and/or watermarked images and video from any day I've chased to the archive, geotagged when possible. If we could gather up dozens of serious chasers all willing to do the same, we might someday have a tool with which to research and even "re-live" any significant chase day. Anyone with me?
     
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  16. Jeff Duda

    Jeff Duda Resident meteorological expert
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    Personally I think there's just not enough widespread interest to make this a true community effort. While there may be hundreds or even a thousand or more people chasing any given event nowadays, it seems to me that only a small fraction do anything more than slap a quick picture of a picture they took of a tornado and say "oh yeah! I saw this today near soandsosville!" on FB or the Twit. Even fewer write detailed accounts of their adventures or include any post-mortem analysis of what they saw, when, and where they were when they saw it. Meteorological discussion is almost completely absent. Of those that write accounts, even fewer still place that sort of information in a location that would be expected to remain online for a long time (i.e., many use Stormtrack REPORTS threads to link to their Flickr, YouTube, or blog page), thus providing for the potential for a great amount of information to be lost unless it is archived in some sort of objective sense.

    Since so few are willing to actually do the work of creating an archive, I figure any archive created would be inherently biased towards the experiences of those who make it. Above that, though, the record would simply be incomplete.

    I don't think it's good enough to just ask chasers to contribute their information. Many chasers have other stuff to do with their lives - jobs, family, other hobbies, and just may not be interested enough to take the time to add significant material to an archive.
     
  17. Mark Blue

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    Any project of this nature usually has one point man who organizes and oversees the entire effort from start to finish (Blake Naftel is a good example). Having two or three helpers would bolster such a database build out, but the main concerns would be organization, time, and consistency. In order to make any appreciable progress for a given timeframe, the team would have to work nearly year round - not solely during the offseason - until it was mostly completed. This would require a rather large time commitment from those individuals, probably way more than they ever bargained for. This is not to say it couldn't be done, but it would require a small team with a boatload of motivation.

    I think it's a noble idea Dan and would support such an effort if it came to fruition. I hope it works out for the benefit of the chasing community.
     
  18. Blake W. Naftel

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    It's completely feasible to create, maintain, and continue growing a multimedia database; be it what Dan originally mentioned, or in regards to extending a cloud-based academic archive. Going back to my original point, the later takes qualified people whom are involved in various professions (library science, archiving, preservation of analog and digital material, GIS/Geographic Information Systems, history, and journalism). On a smaller scale, the Wiki idea has also been mentioned from others, and certainly would be a worthwhile venture -- if -- there was enough of a demand and in time, a modest maintenance/hosting fee was utilized. Otherwise, even by utilizing individuals whom maintain this forum, it would take a great effort and organization to make this happen. Anything is possible though, and I encourage those whom are interested in creating such a database to continue dialogue about it, and perhaps even attempt a beta test of such a platform.

    I am not alone in regards to those whom have organized such vast databases of information. It is possible to do it with minimal assistance, but, with ample income, spouse/family support, and/or a core amount of grant funding. Tom Grazulis, a friend and mentor, spent the better part of his thirties traveling, researching, and and compiling the 1600 page reference work 'Significant Tornadoes: 1680-1991', with two attendant follow ups, coupled with the Tornado Video Classics video series in tandem the lead visual archival assistance of Roy Britt (perhaps the first original severe weather archivist on a mass scale). That was another one-of-a-kind series that has also served as inspiration for the SCA project since first obtaining the books and videos in my early teens.

    Every project begins somewhere with someone who is determined, and this discussion is a great start!

    Blake
     
  19. Warren Faidley

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    The least painful way to initially do this might be to first establish a secure and backed-up online depository where material can be submitted and cataloged by year as a starting point. In other words, preserving the material should be a priority. I cannot imagine how much work it would be for one person to try and sort this out without some degree of base organization. I'm not sure that using existing data bases like Wiki or cloud resources would be wise. Social media and Internet sites are always in flux and if those resources were to fold or alter their agreements / free services / formats, etc., all could be lost after a lot of hard work.
     
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  20. John Olexa

    John Olexa Member

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    I'm not sure there can be a whole museum about storm chasing, but I can surely see a weather museum dedicating a section to storm chasing / chasers
     
  21. Warren Faidley

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    There use to be a "chaser" museum on a rural, central Oklahoma highway. Maybe someone here remembers the location or contact. I know a lot of chasers donated material for the museum.
     
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  22. Steve Miller

    Steve Miller Owner
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    I have heard a lot of rumblings about a group here in Moore, OK looking to build a museum. I can't seem to put my finger on who the ringleader is but would like to know so I can help where I can. I think the premise of this group is to memorialize those we have lost here while highlighting technologies that will hopefully minimize the number of severe weather fatalities in the future.
     
  23. Warren Faidley

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    Maybe a "Museum of Severe Weather" would be a better title than "Storm Chasers Museum." Then you could incorporate a lot more of the science, spotting, warning systems, radar technology, etc.
     
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  24. Bill Hark

    Bill Hark Member

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    Warren, you may be thinking of the Twister museum in Wakita, Oklahoma. The other possibility was the Texas Twister museum that was briefly by the Big Texan in Amarillo. I have heard of chasers donating to both. The Texas Twister Museum closed after a relatively brief period. I agree with Warren that an online repository would be good but it should be through a university or other permanent institution rather than sitting out there in social media.
     
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  25. Warren Faidley

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    Hi Bill, you might be right on the Wakita museum. As for the museum at the Big Texan, I believe Tim Marshall worked with the owner? It's been closed for years. They use to have a jeep there from one of the Pampa Tornadoes that was completely crushed. I really like the idea of a severe weather museum. It's kind of interesting to envision the possible displays. For example: Some of the earliest weather research vehicles the Gov. used back in the late 60's and 70's. I've heard there is still one or two of them in a Norman junk yard. There could also be a section with unusual storm damage. e.g., things impaled in trees, etc. I once thought of collecting such oddities, but it's difficult / wrong to take items from a disaster setting (unless you have a museum!). I think this idea would get a lot of kids interested in science. A University setting would likely be best and Norman is the obvious choice.
     
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