Iowans have already seen several tornadoes spin down from black clouds this spring, but today marks the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week. Jeff Johnson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says Iowans may need a refresher course about the dangers of severe weather and each weekday will have a different focus, starting today.
“We’ll talk about flash flooding and its hazards, reminding folks it’s the most deadly severe weather risk we have,” Johnson says. “Tuesday, we’ll talk about warning reception, how to get a warning in this modern age, and Wednesday, we’ll talk about tornadoes. It’s also the annual statewide Tornado Drill which will occur at 10 A.M. Eventually, you’ll be under a Tornado Warning so it’s a good time to review exactly what’s to be done.”
Thursday’s subject is severe thunderstorms and Friday, it’ll be family preparedness and emergency kits. Johnson says Iowa only had 33 confirmed tornadoes during all of 2010, far fewer than the norm. “Our average long-term normal for the last 30 years is 48 (tornadoes), so last year was below normal and this year, we’re off to a fast start,” Johnson says. “We’ve had tentatively seven tornadoes in our area.”
He says it’s still too early to try and predict what kind of year Iowa is going to have for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.
“Severe weather long-range forecasting is difficult at best,” Johnson says. “I like to think of it as — just be prepared for a normal year. Some years we have less than normal, other years we have more. What really drives that is the number of days we have widespread severe weather outbreaks. You get a few outbreaks in the spring where you get multiple tornadoes, you can really inflate those numbers pretty quickly.”
He says the best way to get severe weather information is from local radio and TV, weather radio and online at “www.weather.gov“.
By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City