Jasper County Emergency Management Coordinator Kathy Ellis hopes citizens remember next week, March 25-29, is Severe Weather Awareness Week. To help educate the public, she has produced a number of training pamphlets that are available at the Jasper County EMA website, www.jasperema-hls.org.
The Monday training pamphlet focuses on flash flooding, which is the most deadly threat from thunderstorms in the United States.
A flash flood is a rapid rise of water along a stream or low-lying area, which can cause catastrophic damage. Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard, resulting in more than 140 fatalities each year.
Most flash floods are caused by slow moving thunderstorms, or multiple thunderstorms that develop over the same area. Flash flooding can develop within minutes, depending on the intensity and duration of rain, topography, soil conditions, and ground cover.
The Tuesday training pamphlet focuses on warning reception, and how the ways to receive hazardous weather warnings have changed over the years.
One of the most important precautions anyone can take to protect oneself and one’s family from severe weather is to remain weather aware. Being weather aware means being informed of the weather forecast and alert to the potential hazards.
With today’s technology, there are many different ways to receive this information, including the Internet, commercial television and radio, and NOAA Weather Radio. All of these technologies have one thing in common: it is up to the user to remain weather aware and actively listening for watches and warnings.
Knowing what to do and where to go when watches and warnings are issued is key to your safety, but a watch or warning is only helpful if you are aware of them.
The Wednesday training pamphlet focuses on tornadoes, which resulted in more than 500 deaths in the United States in 2011 alone.
A tornado, which is a rapidly rotating column of air in contact with the ground, doesn’t require a visible cloud to form, and may not appear to extend to the ground while causing considerable damage below. Tornadoes come in a number of shapes and sizes, and most produce winds of less than 120 mph.
Some powerful tornadoes, however, have produced winds well in excess of 200 mph, which are incredibly destructive and life-threatening. Some tornadoes are small and last for only a minute or two, while others can be more than a mile wide and stay on the ground for more than an hour.
The Thursday training pamphlet focuses on thunderstorms, hundreds of which strike Iowa each year, and which can be just as dangerous as tornadoes.
The National Weather Service issues severe thunderstorm warnings for thunderstorms that are producing, or are capable of producing:
• winds of at least 58 mph, and
• hail at least 1 inch in diameter.
Thunderstorms are commonplace in Iowa, and can bring extremely dangerous by triggering deadly tornadoes and lightning strikes, along with damaging winds, hail and the potential for flash flooding. Oftentimes, severe thunderstorms may be much stronger than the minimum criteria established by the NWS.
The Friday training pamphlet focuses on family preparedness, both from natural and man-made hazards that can disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives each year in the U.S.
Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property. If a disaster occurs in one’s community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will likely mobilize immediately to provide help, but one must also be prepared.
Depending upon the severity of the disaster, local responders may not be able to reach one’s family immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere. Being prepared for a disaster can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters.