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When it comes to weather, official says be prepared

Severe Weather Week encourages awareness, preparedness

In an unprecedented time when Iowans are being encouraged to stay inside as much as possible, the weather outside — good and bad — will continue. That means staying alert to severe weather is as important now as ever to weather the storm.

Here’s what you need to know about severe thunderstorms, weather warnings, tornadoes, family preparedness and flash floods, according to the Webster County Emergency Management Agency.

Severe thunderstorms

There are five categories of risk for severe thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service: marginal, slight, enhanced, moderate and high. Knowing which is which can make the difference between a passing rumble and bringing the house down.

A light thunderstorm with even minimal lightning and flooding threat will produce winds up to 40 mph and small hail.

A category 1 marginal thunderstorm can produce isolated but severe patterns, limited in duration, coverage or intensity. Winds can vary from 40 to 60 mph with hail up to one inch in diameter. This category has a low risk of developing into a tornado.

A category 2 slight thunderstorm produces scattered patterns that are short-lived with the possibility of more intense, isolated spots. They can produce one or two tornadoes, have strong winds and can produce some hail up to two inches in diameter.

A category 3 enhanced storm is more persistent and widespread, with a few tornadoes and accompanying reports of wind damage. Hail is regularly damaging at one to two inches in diameter.

A category 4 moderate storm is more widespread and severe, with long-lived winds, widespread damage, destructive hail and strong tornadoes.

A category 5 storm is long-lived, intense, fast-moving and leads to tornado outbreaks with damaging winds across greater distances.

Weather warnings

The difference between a watch and a warning makes the difference between being alert and needing to take immediate shelter for a severe thunderstorm or tornado.

A watch means that severe weather, including damaging hail and winds, is possible or close to the watch area. Remain alert for rapidly changing conditions, listen for updated statements or warnings, and plan to take shelter in a basement or interior room if needed. For tornadoes, a warning means conditions are capable of producing a tornado.

A warning means you need to take shelter immediately away from windows, use extra caution if driving or evacuate to a safe shelter if in a mobile home. For thunderstorms, it means any hail will be at least one-inch with winds of at least 58 mph. For tornadoes, it means a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado is imminent.

Starting today, Webster County EMA will be giving away weather radios on their Facebook page. The EMA encourages the public to be ready to receive weather alerts through radio, TV, weather apps for your smartphone, or via the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tornadoes

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s statewide tornado drill, scheduled for Wednesday, has been canceled.

In the event of a tornado warning, residents should immediately go to the lowest level of their home, according to Dylan Hagen, Webster County Emergency Management Agency coordinator. If that’s not an option, find an interior room with no windows.

Hagen said that previous February issues with malfunctioning sirens that activated too early one Saturday have been resolved.

Family preparedness

Do you have a family plan for emergencies? If not, now is the time to make one. Comprehensive information at www.ready.gov will help you determine the materials and protocols you should have in place for when disaster strikes.

An emergency supply kit should have everything you need to sustain you and your family for three to five days, according to Ready Iowa. Make sure everyone in your family is aware of emergency plans.

Be aware of hazards that can affect your community and learn how to get information about current weather and road conditions.

Flash flooding

“This is your reminder to turn around, don’t drown,” when you see a puddle on the road, Hagen said.

Just 12 inches of water, if it’s moving fast enough, is powerful enough to carry away a small car. Just 18 to 24 inches of fast-moving water can carry away most SUVs.

It can also be difficult to determine the exact depth of water on the road.

“It’s hard to see any debris in the water, and who’s to say the road has not washed away?” Hagen said.

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