- Associated Press - Monday, October 3, 2016

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - The National Weather Museum and Science Center’s storefront grand opening in September signified completion of phase two of a three-phase project.

The next phase is a $70 million, 120,000-square-foot building.

“We have it pretty well planned out,” said Doug Forsyth, executive director. “We’re ready to go. It takes a lot of money to get there.”

The plan has been in the works since the early 1990s when Forsyth and his friends at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration talked about the idea, according to The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/2dDG6Kn ). In the early 2000s, the Norman Chamber of Commerce’s weather committee had a subcommittee that started working on the museum. The subcommittee formed a 501(c)3 and became a nonprofit organization in 2007.

The first phase was the mobile center. The museum-on-wheels is ready to head to schools. However, it needs a truck to pull it, Forsyth said. The mobile weather museum has been at the National Weather Festival the last two years.

“We may have to go on the market and buy a truck,” he said. “I was asking certain people if they had any vehicles they were going to release. I haven’t found any of those.”

Opening the new storefront and the mobile museum has cost about $250,000, with money coming from the Chickasaw Nation, the University of Oklahoma, Norman Public Schools, a grant, and private donors. About $10,000 per year comes in through memberships.

Besides money, museum organizers are looking for weather memorabilia. Forsyth said some museum artifacts include old radar equipment and a car destroyed in a May 2013 tornado. He said he’s spoken with a California man that has the world’s largest thermometer collection. He’s interested in selling it to the museum, but the collection is valued at about $150,000.

“We’d be happy to talk to someone that has any sort of memorabilia, even stories we might have to transcribe for future use,” said Kevin Kloesel, president of the museum’s board of directors. “(Weather) is part of our heritage. It’s part of our culture. It’s part of our livelihood.”

He said the storefront provides a place where people can see what the future museum could entail. The space is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is an admission cost.

“We would love to see the community come and make this part of the community in Oklahoma,” Forsyth said. “People like to talk about the weather. We love to talk about the weather.”

Kloesel said the atmosphere links Oklahomans and the globe. The museum provides a place to learn more about how weather affects people from a cultural or economic stance.

“Weather is the tie that binds,” Kloesel said.

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Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

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