With winter behind us, Iowans need to get in the mindset to be prepared for different potential weather dangers associated with spring — like hail, lightning, flash flooding and tornadoes. Jeff Johnson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says today (Monday) marks the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa. One key element will be a statewide tornado drill on Wednesday morning. “We’ll have the watch at 10, followed by a Tornado Warning at about 10:15,” Johnson says. “It’s an excellent time to exercise your home plan, if you have one, or your school response to a tornado or your business response.”
Each day this week will focus on different types of severe weather, including flash flooding, severe thunderstorms, developing a family emergency plan and how watches and warnings have changed in recent years. Johnson says 2013 was another unusual year as Iowa had very few tornadoes. “The numbers were inflated a little bit from that event in early October, particularly in northwest Iowa, but if you took that out, if you take out that event and Belmond, we had seven tornadoes in the Belmond area in June of last year, it was very quiet,” Johnson says. “Even with those two events, we had in the upper 20s for tornadoes.”
Iowa averages 48 tornadoes a year, but recorded 120 twisters in 2004. Johnson says it’s difficult to predict what kind of year will be ahead, especially after such a cold, snowy winter.
“It all depends on where the weather patterns set up in April, May and June,” Johnson says. “I always tell everybody prepare for the worst and we’re going to have severe weather at some point. We’re going to have tornadic storms, flash flooding storms, large hail and wind.”
This month, the National Weather Service will hold storm spotter classes across Iowa. The classes offer information about cloud development, how to spot tornadoes and more. Learn more about Severe Weather Awareness Week and the spotter classes at www.weather.gov/dmx.