Tornadoes in 2013 killed 53 people in the United States. Recognizing that a tornado is occurring can be difficult; a visible cloud is not needed for a tornado to be in progress, some tornadoes may not appear to extend to the ground but are still causing considerable damage, and others may be obscured by rain. Tornadoes can take on various shapes and sizes, and most produce winds less than 120 mph, but a few are capable of producing winds over 200 mph. Predicting what a tornado is going to do is difficult as some tornadoes are very small and last for only a minute or so, while others can be a mile wide or larger and stay on the ground for over an hour.
In 2013 Iowa saw a total of 28 tornadoes. Of these tornadoes, 13 were rated EF0; 11 were rated EF1; 2 were rated EF2; 1 EF3 and 1 EF4 tornado. There were no injuries and one death reported during the 2013 tornado season. There were a smattering of severe hailstorms from late March through the first half of May, but no tornadoes during these first two months of Iowa’s climatological “tornado season.” For more interesting information on the frequency of tornadoes in Iowa see the climate section of the National Weather Service website at http://www.crh.noaa.gov
Watch & Warning Products from the NWS
The National Weather Service is your best source of information to help you understand what’s happening with the weather and the risk of tornadoes in your area. Here are the very specific terms the NWS uses to inform the public of predicted or actual tornado activity. You need to understand them to be able to protect you and your family.
Tornado Watch- Issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. During the watch, people should be prepared to move to a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
Tornado Warning- Issued by the National Weather Service when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately.
Tornado Emergency- A Tornado Emergency is issued by the National Weather Service. It is not a new warning, but is used to highlight a confirmed tornado which is expected to be strong and violent. A Tornado Emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue.
When the outdoor warning sirens sound it means “take cover” and “take cover” means to go inside immediately. The sirens sound when it is not safe to be outside. Make sure that everyone in your family knows the safest place to be in your home during an emergency.
During a severe weather emergency a basement or other underground shelter is the safest place to be. Try to get under a heavy workbench or the stairs. If you do not have a basement, stay on the first floor and put as many walls between yourself and the outdoors as possible. A closet or bathroom on an inside wall, or hallway on the lowest level of the house and away from windows is recommended if you don’t have a basement.
If you live in a mobile home or trailer, get out!! Even if it is tied down a mobile home can be shattered. It is important to identify the closest safe place before an event. If you do not have a storm shelter in your park, learn where storm shelters are located in your community and have a plan on how you will get there.
If you are outside or in a car, get out of the car and inside a house or building. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. You can be picked up and thrown by the tornado. If you are caught outside, crouch low in a ditch and cover your head with your hands.
Tornadoes and Overpass Safety
Many people mistakenly think that highway overpasses provide safety from a tornado. In reality, an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado. Seeking shelter under an overpass puts you at greater risk of being killed or injured by flying debris because the winds under an overpass are channeled.
Informational brochures on Outdoor and Indoor Warning systems and other Severe Weather Preparedness information can be located on the Story County website at www.storycountyiowa.gov/ema under Disaster & Emergency Preparedness. Story County Emergency Management can also be followed through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/storycountyema which is being used for public education and Emergency Management activities.