Despite the weekend snowfall, this is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa in preparation for spring storms to come. Jeff Johnson, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, says the week is even more important this year after all the deadly weather Iowa experienced in 2008.

"It was certainly a bad year all around for severe weather and flooding across the state," Johnson says. "We lost more people last year in tornadoes than we had combined all the way back through 1980 — we had 13 deaths." Johnson says the criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning due to hail is changing a bit this year. He says storms will now need to produce one-inch hail to be considered "severe."

He says that criteria was raised from three-quarters of a inch to a full inch, which he says may not have a big impact, other than it may cut down on the number of warnings issued, especially at night when there’s little wind and the thunderstorm is just dumping rain and hail.

As part of the week’s activities, a statewide tornado drill will be held on Wednesday. Johnson says the drill serves as a good reminder that you need to know what you are going to do around your home or business if a warning is issued. He says Iowans should know where they need to go in the event of a tornado and how they’ll be informed of the warning in the first place — be it by weather radio, commercial radio, TV or the sirens. F

or more information about Severe Weather Awareness Week, look online at the National Weather Service website for Des Moines .