The cleanup continues in parts of central and eastern Iowa from the massive wind storm that rolled through early Monday morning. Large trees in several towns through Tama and Benton County were uprooted – falling on houses and power lines. Fortunately, no one was injured. But, some residents of Vinton and Garrison are questioning why they heard the rain and wind, but no warning sirens. Todd and Sheri Lehman live in Vinton.
“I’m not sure which would have beat us to the punch – the sounds of the sirens going off or the sound of the storm blowing through,” Todd admitted. “They may have known something was coming…it would have been better to be safe than sorry,” Sheri said.
Benton County Emergency Management Director Scott Hansen is the man in charge of setting off the outdoor alert system. “There’s always a misconception about the sirens. They are for outdoor warnings,” Hansen said. “If you’re in your home with doors and windows closed, the air conditioning on, you’re not going to hear an outdoor warning siren.”
He says relying only on outdoor sirens before taking cover in a basement or storm shelter is a mistake. Hansen says every home needs a weather radio to alert them to severe weather. Hansen says Monday’s storm shifted quickly – winds picked up unexpectedly and before he could sound the outdoor alarm, the wall of straight line winds hit the town.
“It’s always a judgment call. Sometimes we hit it OK, sometimes we miss it a bit,” Hansen said. Outdoor alarms did sound in Shellsburg and rural area of eastern Benton County. Hansen says the sirens are usually set off when winds hit 70 miles per hour. The storm on Monday morning packed winds of more than 100 miles per hour.
By Jillian Petrus, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids