SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK: Thunderstorms

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the National Weather Service have designated March 25 through March 29 as Severe Weather
Awareness Week.
Each day during Severe Weather Awareness Week, the National Weather Service in Des Moines will cover severe weather topics. Today’s topic is severe thunderstorms.

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. Some severe thunderstorms can produce hail larger than softballs or winds over 100 mph, so please pay attention to the weather so you know when severe storms are possible. Remember these tips:

  • Watch for signs of a thunderstorm, like darkening skies or lightning flashes.
  •  If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. Lightning can travel up to five miles from its origination point.
    If thunder roars, go indoors! Don’t wait for rain.
  •  Avoid using corded electrical equipment during a thunderstorm.
  •  Keep away from windows during a thunderstorm.
  •  Always listen to KIOW, a weather radio, or kiow.com for important emergency information, warnings, watches, or emergency information.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when 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.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when 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.

Once a warning has been issued, go to a safe location in your home or business. Large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums are not recommended. Stay away from windows because large hail or winds could damage the glass and subsequently anyone near them. Pay close attention to weather information on your weather radio, KIOW, or kiow.com.

If you are outside, do not take shelter under a tree because the tree may fall on you. You are also increasing your chances of getting struck by lightning. If you are in a car, find the closest secure shelter and wait the storm out inside the shelter.

After the storm, let family and friends know that you’re OK. Check on family and friends who may have been in the storm’s path to make sure they are alright too. If there is substantial damage, power lines are down, or you smell gas, contact local authorities. Wait for emergency personnel and do not enter damaged buildings.

Taking simple precautionary steps may save your life and those of others after a severe thunderstorm.