Tornado season is just around the corner and a statewide tornado drill will be held this morning as a reminder to get Iowans prepared. Jeff Johnson, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in metro Des Moines, says the average number of tornadoes that hit Iowa has gone up in recent years. The average is 45 twisters a year. Last year there were 31 but the year before there were 103 tornadoes in Iowa, a new record. Today’s tornado drill is part of severe weather awareness week in Iowa. The drill allows government officials, law enforcement agencies, schools, private groups, citizens and the media to test their severe weather communications before the severe weather season begins in ernest. Johnson says spring is the most likely time for tornadoes to develop.About 70-percent of Iowa’s tornadoes hit during April, May and June, usually between two and ten P-M, but he stresses, tornadoes can strike anytime, any month. Johnson says doppler radar has helped to forecast tornadoes and to provide an early warning. Today’s statewide tornado drill will start with a test tornado watch being issued at 10 o’clock this morning, followed by a warning at 10:15, with the drill ending at 10:30. Johnson says the weather service tries to combine the doppler radar information with actual spotter data to implement tornado forecasting.Thanks to new technology, forecasters’ lead time on a tornado has been stretched from only four minutes warning to about 12 minutes, which Johnson says may not seem like much, but an extra eight minutes warning can make a big difference.
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