LA HABRA — Contrary to the media blitzkrieg, El Nino does have a silver lining, at least in La Habra.
That's where curator April Morales got lucky by planning an unexpectedly relevant exhibit, ongoing at the city's Children's Museum, months before she or anybody had gotten wind of one of the biggest, wettest stories in recent memory.
The timely show the museum's exhibits and education curator put together, "Forces of Nature," teaches youths about such potentially destructive natural phenomena as El Nino, scientifically explained through wall text. Large photographs illuminate the floods, mudslides and erosion associated with the weather pattern.
The exhibit's weather station also contains a thermometer, hygrometer (which measures moisture in air), a weather map and texts explaining cold and warm fronts, hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards.
Visitors may assemble a disaster kit and gather preparedness literature issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. They may penetrate a darkened, strobe-lit room to experience simulated lightning, don real firefighters' uniforms and maneuver a real fire hose or experience a simulated earthquake shake.
"The idea," Morales said during a recent phone interview from her home, "is to give the kids a chance to have a dress rehearsal with the forces of nature."
The fake quake has been one of the show's most popular attractions since it opened in the summer. Its loud, deeply tremulous effect is achieved by placing speakers that reproduce the sounds of a rolling thunderstorm against the platform on which visitors stand.
Besides squealing with delight, quake participants can practice their "duck, cover and hold" response, wherein they duck under a sturdy table or doorway, cover their heads and hold on to something solid.
"Some of the younger kids get a little scared," Morales said, "but that's OK, because in real life, it would be scarier, and they should have a chance to get a feel for it."
"Forces of Nature" also contains a wave machine, a 6-foot-tall volcano with flowing lava (created with water and red lights), a fluffy, ceiling-high tornado sculpture, a movable plate tectonic model, a disaster preparedness video, sample gas and water mains to turn on and off, games and such toys as firetrucks.
THE BAD MAN'S A-COMIN': Fans of the Old West, take note. Actor and storyteller David L. Krebs will breathe life into the hardscrabble denizens of Bodie, the California Gold Rush town explored in the current exhibit at the Fullerton Museum Center.
"Bodie: Boom Town to Ghost Town" follows the rise and fall of the remote mining outpost near the Nevada border where sidewalks once glimmered with gold but lawlessness reigned. Krebs has mined a book written by Ella Cain--a member of the J. S. Cain family that was largely responsible for preserving the town's charm--for raw material he'll use in dramatic interpretations at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 7 and March 7.
One of the characters in Krebs' repertory will typify a "bad man of Bodie" who swears and bluffs his way into trouble, said museum center curator Lynn La Bate.
The deep-voiced performer, who has worked in radio and television, will also tell the tale of a feisty, gun-toting brewery owner and others.
Tickets to Krebs' appearances are free with museum admission: $2-$3. (714) 738-6317.
"Forces of Nature" runs through Jan. 25 at the Children's Museum at La Habra, 301 S. Euclid St. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. $4 general, free for children under 2. (562) 905-9793.
Storyteller David L. Krebs appears Saturday at the Fullerton Museum Center, 301 N. Pomona Ave. 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Also Feb. 7 and March 7. Included with museum admission, $1-$3; children under 12 free. (714) 738-6545.