As Iowans we know that that severe weather may strike at any time. Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with the National Weather Service (Des Moines office) typically designate the last week of March as Severe Weather Awareness Week. The goal of this campaign is to provide Iowans a better understanding about the state’s spring weather hazards like flash floods, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. It’s also a good time to remind families about the importance of weather warnings and family preparedness.
Flooding typically occurs when prolonged rain falls over several days, when intense rain falls over a short period of time, or when an ice or debris jam causes a river or stream to overflow onto the surrounding area. Approximately 75% of all Presidential disaster declarations are associated with flooding.
What is the difference between a Flood Watch and a Flood Warning issued by the National Weather Service?
- Flash Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
- Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.
- Flood Watch: Be Prepared:A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
- Flood Advisory: Be Aware: An Flood Advisory is issued when a specific weather event that is forecast to occur may become a nuisance. A Flood Advisory is issued when flooding is not expected to be bad enough to issue a warning. However, it may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year and are common here in the Midwest.
What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?
- Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
- Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on Radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
Severe thunderstorms are officially defined as storms that are capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger or wind gusts over 58 mph. Hail this size can damage property such as plants, roofs and vehicles. Wind this strong is able to break off large branches, knock over trees or cause structural damage to trees. Thunderstorms also produce tornadoes and dangerous lightning and heavy rain can cause flash flooding.
Do you know the difference between a National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Watch and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning?
- Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared! Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
- Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action! Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
Ready Iowa provides these tips to help your family prepare for severe weather.
In an emergency, there are items you and your family will need. Pack a bag with items listed below. After assembling your kit, store it in a place known to all household members. Review the contents of your kit periodically to make sure stored medicines are up to date.
- Water and non-perishable food for each person for 3-5 days
- First aid kit
- Battery-operated flashlight and radio, and extra batteries for each
- Extra clothing and bedding (including shoes)
- Personal hygiene items
- Speciality items such as prescription medications, baby formula, diapers and pet supplies
- Plates, cups, utensils and a can opener
- Copies of important documents such as driver’s licenses, birth certificates, insurance policies and financial information
You and your family may not be together when an emergency happens, so knowing what to do, where you will go, and how to get in touch with family members is important.
Create a family communication plan.
Choose an out-of-town friend or relative to be a contact point for family members to call if you are separated during an emergency. Make sure everyone knows how and when to call 911 or local emergency medical services. Post emergency contact phone numbers near telephones.
Develop a family evacuation plan.
Contact your local emergency management agency to learn about your community’s emergency plan, the location of shelters and hospitals, and evacuation routes.
Most shelters do not accept pets. Prepare a list of kennels, friends and family members who may be able to care for your pet in an emergency. If you are able to take your pet to a shelter, the pet must have a current vaccination record, a pet carrier and a supply of food.
Address special needs.
Make plans to ensure the needs of someone you know who is elderly or dependent on life-sustaining or health-related equipment such as a ventilator or respirator.
Share your tips for severe weather awareness and preparation in the Comments section below!