Meteorologist Ken Podrazek with the National Weather Service in metro Des Moines, says severe storms typically hit during two times of day, but they can strike at any time. “There’s two different peaks, sometime in the late afternoon between 4 and 6 P-M, and then a secondary peak during the overnight hours around midnight,” Podrazek says. “That’s when we get into the low level jet and get the overnight thunderstorms that race across the state.”
Severe storms are more frequent during the spring and early summer months, but they can strike during any time of the year. There were 55 tornadoes in Iowa last year, seven more than the average of 48. Podrazek says tornado warnings should be taken very seriously.
“Any time there’s a tornado warning issued, you definitely need to take cover,” he says. “Even if you think it might go north or south of you, it’s good practice to always get to safety.” A statewide tornado drill is scheduled for Wednesday morning. A test tornado watch will be issued at 10 a.m., followed by a test tornado warning. Podrazek says it’s an opportunity to develop plans on where you’d go in the event a real tornado warning is issued.
“This is a great time for local businesses and schools to practice their severe weather preparedness plan and to actually get to safety,” he says. Another major concern in Iowa is flooding, which is one of the leading weather-related killers.
“It’s resulted in 84 deaths per year throughout the United States,” he says. “That’s higher than tornadoes, higher than lightning, higher than winter storms. The only one that’s ahead of it is heat-related fatalities. As far as thunderstorm-related, flooding and flashing flooding, that’s the biggest one that kills people.” More than half those flooding deaths happen in motor vehicles when people try to drive across a water-covered roadway.
“We always say ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown’ and we absolutely mean it,” Podrazek says. “A lot of times you see water over the road, you don’t know how deep that is, how fast it’s going, if the road is intact. It doesn’t take a whole lot of water to sweep an adult off their feet and it doesn’t take a whole lot of water to move a vehicle either.” Podrazek says flooded roads are worse at night when your vision is more limited. He notes, just six inches of fast-moving water can knock over and carry off an adult, while 12 inches of water can float a smaller car, and if the water is moving, it can carry the car away. Some 18 to 24 inches of flowing water can carry away most vehicles, including large SUVs.
Learn more about Severe Weather Awareness Week at weather.gov.
(Thanks to Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)