Are you ready?
Local and state officials team up to ensure everyone is prepared
Iowa Severe Weather Week begins Monday across the state, and several agencies are teaming up to help educate Iowans on the dangers of severe weather that can happen during the spring.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has proclaimed the week of March 26 through 30 to be Iowa Severe Weather Week, along with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management as well as the National Weather Service.
Scott Forbes, Webster County emergency management coordinator, said every day this week will feature information on a different severe weather event.
Information will be sent out via social media.
Severe thunderstorms will be discussed on Monday.
Forbes defined severe thunderstorms as storms that are capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger, as well as wind gusts that are more than 58 miles per hour.
He also said there is a difference between a severe thunderstorm watch and warning.
“A severe thunderstorm watch is basically ‘be prepared,'” he said. “It means thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area, and it’s up to you to stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.”
He said a watch area is typically large, and may include several counties or states.
A severe thunderstorm warning, on the other hand, is more specific.
“A severe thunderstorm warning is when you take action,” Forbes said. “It means severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar.”
Warnings indicate that a weather event is imminent, according to Forbes, and that severe damage and potentially death and injury are likely.
On Tuesday, information will be given out on how to receive information about severe weather.
Forbes said there are many ways in which people can be informed locally of severe weather. These include signing up for weather alerts on Webster County’s website — which will go to either your phone or email, depending on what is selected — as well as weather radios and local media.
Last year, Webster County also adopted a weather alert system for area parks for those who may be visiting but still want to be informed of weather alerts.
Forbes said all they need to do is text a specific phrase to a specific number, and they will receive alerts.
Signs on how to use this service are available at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area, John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Dolliver Memorial State Park and Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex.
Wednesday will not only feature information about tornadoes, but it will also be when the statewide tornado drill is held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Forbes said tornadoes can occur any time of day or night and have been reported in all 50 states.
The Central Plains and southeast United States are the most frequently hit areas, but Forbes said tornadoes can also impact Iowa.
A tornado in Stratford back in 2005 led to extensive damage and one death, while this year marks 10 years since a tornado hit Parkersburg.
Seven people died in the EF-5 tornado on May 25, 2008.
Forbes said, should a tornado strike, it’s critically important to take shelter.
“If you’re at your workplace or school, follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly,” he said. “Stay away from windows and do not go into large, open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums or auditoriums.”
And if someone is outside and a tornado is coming, they should take shelter inside a sturdy structure. Forbes said shelters and storage facilities are not safe.
Family preparedness will be the topic discussed on Thursday.
Forbes said it’s very important to have a severe weather plan and to discuss it with your family.
“And then practice your plan,” he said. “Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do when severe weather is approaching.”
Forbes recommended creating a meeting place where everybody can meet up in severe weather, as well as designating a safe room to take shelter in. He said the safest places are basements, storm cellars or an interior room of the home that doesn’t have windows.
And on Friday, flooding will be discussed.
Forbes said people should avoid walking or driving through flooded waters, adding that 6 inches of water can knock a person over and 1 foot of water can sweep a vehicle away.
He also cautioned people about driving over bridges when there are fast-moving floodwaters underneath.
“Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable,” he said.
It’s also recommended to avoid camping or parking alongside rivers and streams during heavy rainfall.
Forbes said Iowa Severe Weather Week is meant to raise awareness of severe weather so that people can be prepared in case something does happen.
“Our weather can change,” he said. “One day it could be snowing and the next day we could have a thunderstorm. Knowing just basic safety tips will help ensure your safety.”
Related: The state is looking for volunteer weather watchers who are willing to measure precipitation and report it regularly to provide much-needed help to meteorologists and others to help track drought conditions.