Boring is not always bad. This is especially true when speaking of weather. In that way, Connecticut is usually dull as dirt.
While some people relocate purely based on job opportunities, plenty of us take into serious consideration what types of weather conditions we can tolerate. Severe hurricanes? That rules out the southeastern part of the United States. Trauma caused from watching The Wizard of Oz one too many times? No Kansas, thank you. Not cool with collapsing buildings? That rules out California.
But if earthquakes are a concern, that should also exclude Alaska from the mix, as that state experiences the most quakes in the United States.
But we never hear about them because of how Alaska is so sparsely populated. In 1964, Anchorage was devastated by the Good Friday Earthquake — the second largest in history — measuring in with a magnitude of 9.2. A tsunami followed and approximately 130 people died. Buildings collapsed and others were damaged across nearly 30 blocks. About fifteen other towns experienced damage too, as the epicenter, in Prince William Sound, was near one of Alaska’s more populous regions.
Being fascinated by natural disasters and being willing to live where they happen frequently are two separate things; though firsthand experience teaches best, I thought in this case, it would be preferable to settle for second best: a trip to the Connecticut Science Center, where there is an exhibit all about destructive forces.
Spoiler: heat ruins everything.
What the Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters exhibit provides is perspective. As damaging as Hurricane Katrina and Rita were, we were fortunate to have a warning system so that people could (assuming they had the means) decide how to respond. We’re reminded that in 1900, people had about as much warning about hurricanes as we do today for tsunamis, even though the former reaches land much more slowly than the latter. When transportation was not high speed, they had less time to make an attempt to evacuate the area. The morning of September 8, 1900 was when people along the coast were given warning of the approaching storm — the Great Galveston Hurricane — which struck later that day. This ended up being the deadliest hurricane in United States’ history, with over 8,000 killed.
For those who need more of a tactile-kinesthetic experience, there is a booth on the sixth floor that one can enter to be blasted with high force wind. It’s not the same as being out in a storm where you’d risk getting pelted with debris, but who would want that?
Another too real experience is the four-minute, almost-360° video of a tornado. If you turn to the left, you can see plants bowing from the gusts. Straight ahead, there is a twister, which seems to pass through the viewer. Basically, it confirmed my desire to stay away from the Midwest, where extremely destructive tornadoes occur more than once every fifty years.
At times, this exhibit can seem text/visual-heavy, which if you’re like me, is considered a plus. The section about volcanoes contains obsidian, pumice, etc., that can be touched. Here, there is also a more interactive computer-based learning activity. The earthquake section has the most fun hands-on items. While there, one kid was stomping quickly in place, and the vibrations were captured on a screen. There were tectonic plates to slide around, springs to shake and stretch, and something else I could not get to because a family was rapt by it. There are photographs and videos galore. Part of the exhibit contains stories and drawings by people affected by Hurricane Katrina.
We spent nearly 90 minutes in just this exhibit; of the ones that have been featured here, this has been, hands down, the strongest. . . though I can see it having most appeal for adults or those less dependent on sensory overload. Still, there were no children throwing tantrums or whining about boredom while we were there, and one boy was obsessed with finding out why there was a piece of a tree in the exhibit.
After viewing such destruction, I recommend heading to the top floor to visit something quite the opposite: the green roof. If you saw it when the Connecticut Science Center first opened, or even a few months ago, go again. I was shocked by the difference. If I worked downtown full time, I would be tempted to get a membership just so I can chill up here during my lunch break. I can not remember all varieties of plants, but among them, were cacti, at least one hydrangea, basil, and rudbeckia. It was lush and there were benches to sit on while enjoying the view (and scent). Some plants in this garden can indicate ozone levels. Others were planted to attract bees and butterflies. Upon entering, you’ll see “Pickles,” the compost machine in the shape of a pig. Can you guess where the food goes in and the compost comes out?