The week of Mar. 27-31 has been designated as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa by the National Weather Service, FEMA, Iowa Homeland Security and Iowa emergency management agencies.
Each day of the week will focus on a different part of severe weather, as explained in a press release from the National Weather Service in Des Moines:
Monday - severe thunderstorms
For Iowa, the months of April through July have the most severe weather with over 500 severe thunderstorm warnings issued annually. Severe thunderstorms are defined as wind gusts of 58 mph or higher and/or hail 1 inch in diameter. While Iowans may recall higher end events such as the August 2020 and December 2021 derechos, any thunderstorm can pose a risk to your safety due to lightning. So, if you’re outside, remember when you “see a flash, dash inside.”
Tuesday - weather warnings
Receiving weather warnings will be the topic on Tuesday. NOAA Weather Radio, local radio and television broadcasts, and AlertIowa, freely available by local emergency management agencies, are common ways to receive warnings. On most cell phones, Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA, will sound for any tornado warning and higher end severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings. There are also weather apps for your phone that have alerting capability. “Bottom line, have multiple ways to receive weather information, particularly warnings.”
Wednesday - tornadoes
The statewide tornado drill at commence at 10 a.m. The tornado drill will be started with a special weekly test of NOAA Weather Radio. This would be a great time for Iowans to practice their severe weather plans whether at home, work, or school. If there is active weather on Wednesday, this can delay the test. For Iowa, around 50 tornadoes occur each year.
Thursday - family preparedness
“One of the most important steps you can take now is to develop a family plan for when severe weather occurs. Knowing where to shelter if a warning is issued and how you will communicate if you are apart are key to you and your family’s preparedness” said Andrew Ansorge, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines. Keep this in mind when you head for summer vacations or campgrounds to know which county you are in and think ahead of where you would seek shelter in an unfamiliar place.
Friday - flash floods
Flooding is the leading cause of severe weather related deaths. It only takes 6 inches of fast moving water to knock an adult off their feet with 18 to 24 inches of flowing water carrying away most vehicles, including large SUVs and trucks. Anytime you encounter flooding, turn around, don’t drown.
Local preparedness efforts
Clarke County Emergency Management will be visiting Clarke Elementary on Tuesday, The Village Early Childhood Center on Wednesday and Murray Schools on Friday with the safety training trailer. The trailer includes severe weather simulations, which will give students a chance to experience and practice what to do in those situations.
In addition to educating area students, Clarke County Emergency Management Coordinator Byron Jimmerson encouraged everyone to be prepared for weather this spring.
“During this spring, take time to learn what hazards may impact you, how to take action by making a kit and having a plan, and how you can become an example where you live by sharing your actions with others, such as friends, neighbors and co-workers,” said Jimmerson.
Osceola police chief Marty Duffus reminded the public of two important terms to be mindful of during the months when severe weather is most likely to happen - a weather watch and a weather warning.
“Two important terms apply to spring and summer severe weather. The first term is watch. A weather watch means that conditions are favorable to have severe weather. It does not mean that severe weather is occurring or is imminent. We do not set off the sirens for a watch condition.
“The most important term of course, is warning. When a warning is issued, it means severe weather, either tornado, hail or high winds, has occurred or is expected to occur here. When a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service for Osceola, the sirens are activated and will blow for three minutes. After three minutes they shut down.
“If we haven’t received the weather yet but the warning still exists for us, we will again activate the sirens to blow. Unfortunately, our sirens do not have an all-clear tone. Therefore, it is important for you to keep abreast of weather alerts by using our free NIXLE notification service and to news and weather reports on either radio or television,” said Duffus.
Interested persons can sign up for NIXLE by texting 50213 to 888777 for text alerts, or visiting www.nixle.com and setting up an account for email alerts. Another option to stay in tune for the potential of severe weather is to sign up for Alert Iowa by visiting Smart911′s website - https://www.smart911.com/ - and follow the instructions.
The public is reminded that outdoor warning sirens are intended to notify those who are working outside or doing recreational activities to seek shelter and look at other forms of communication. People indoors should rely on other methods of communication such as radio, TV, weather radios, weather apps or other notification apps as opposed to just the outdoor warning sirens.
Weekly tornado testing will happen every Thursday at 9 a.m. beginning April 6.
In addition to NIXLE and Alert Iowa, Ready.gov offers free tips for different disaster and emergency situations, which can be found at: https://www.ready.gov/be-informed. The National Weather Service’s website, https://www.weather.gov/ also offers educational resources. Clarke County Emergency Management’s Facebook page provides local updates for weather year-round.