The day we visited Tampa, Florida, the sun was shining and the temperature was balmy. We drove to 4801 East Fowler Avenue, opposite the USF Sun Dome, in north Tampa, and entered the Museum of Science and Industry.
Inside the MOSI (as it is called by the locals), we experienced the climactic opposite of the weather outside — a simulated Gulf Coast hurricane.
The museum adventure is not without its hazards, however... namely flying objects. Personal belongings have blown away, several times, at the museum's popular exhibit. The chamber buffets visitors with 120 kilometer-per-hour winds, generated by a 100 horsepower turbine engine.
"Chewing gum flies out of people's mouths and sticks to other people's hair," says one employee. "Earrings and eyeglasses have also flown away," he adds. "We must have the largest lost and found department of any U.S. museum."
Not that visitors aren't warned. A sign at the entrance reads: "This exhibit involves loud noise and high speed air up to 75 mph. Persons with sinus or respiratory problems or persons with sensitive hearing are advised not to participate. Enter at your own risk."
Nonetheless, line-ups are long. "We put through 126 people per hourly show," says the employee. (The hurricane chamber seats 18 at a time.)
"The only difference between it and a real hurricane is that there is no rain," he adds. "And it lasts only 10 seconds."
Participants receive goggles to protect their eyes. Comfortably seated, they can watch the Beaufort Scale on one end of the chamber rise from a light breeze to a strong gale to a full-fledged hurricane.
Hair flies, skirts blow up and bits of foam (designed to mimic debris) whiz by. So does anything else not tied down.
The experience certainly gives you an appreciation for the violence of a hurricane. Visitors also learn how to prepare for hurricanes, which can have winds exceeding 200 kilometers per hour.
Gulf Coast Hurricane is only one of many interactive museum exhibits at MOSI that invite visitors to learn by doing.
The museum gift shop is as educational and entertaining as its programs and exhibits. Amid the magnet games and plastic dinosaurs (embedded in soap eggs) one item, in particular, caught our attention.
"Hurricane — The Game of the Tropics," we read on the box. "This board game takes you traveling to the Caribbean, buying, selling and renting the most exclusive resorts aboard your personal yacht. All the while, the dangers of a hurricane are present. The object of Hurricane is to be the wealthiest player at the end of the game and to learn something about hurricanes at the same time."
Like anything not permanently attached to you might blow away???
Museum of Science and Industry: www.mosi.org
More things to see and do in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater & Tampa area:
St. Petersburg Clearwater Florida Beaches and Family Fun
Tarpon Springs - Greek Food, Sponges, Festivals
Caladesi Island State Park - Beaches, Birding, Hiking and Kayaking
St Pete Dali Museum
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay - Caring for Baby Animals