The National Weather Service, Iowa Homeland Security, FEMA and emergency management agencies around Iowa have designated March 27-31 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa.
Andrew Ansorge, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines said, “As winter’s cold gives way to the warmer days of spring and summer, this week is the time residents, businesses, schools, and radio and television stations are encouraged to review plans to ensure all Iowans are ready when severe weather strikes.”
Each day of the week will focus on one topic with Monday’s subject being severe thunderstorms. For Iowa, the months of April through July have the most severe weather with more than 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.”
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,” Ansorge said.
Tornadoes will be the focus on Wednesday with the statewide tornado drill 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’s subject will be 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” Ansorge said. 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.
Finally, Friday will focus on 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.
Taking time during Severe Weather Awareness Week to review your plans will make you weather-ready as we head into Iowa’s severe weather season. The National Weather Service is available at www.weather.gov and on Facebook and Twitter.