Severe Weather Awareness Week: Preparing for a Tornado

DES MOINES, Iowa -- March 27 through 31 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa. Wednesday's focus is on tornado safety.

There will be a statewide test for both watches and warnings on Wednesday morning.

  • 10:00 AM – Test Tornado Watch issued for Iowa. The test watch will tone alert on NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio.
  • Around 10:30 AM – Test Tornado Warnings for Iowa counties issued. The test warning will alert on NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio. Sirens will go off for drills at schools.
  • 11:00 AM – Test Tornado Watch expires.

This day of Severe Weather Awareness Week comes at a time when Seymour is still trying to put parts of the town back together and kids were able to return to school after an EF2 tornado hit the area earlier in March.

“It hit so quick you didn’t even realize it had been here,” Seymour resident Theresa Rogers said.

After a tragedy like this, Rogers said it probably urges more people to take tornado warnings more seriously.

“If I have a warning, I get ready to go to the basement just in case,” Rogers said.

Meteorologist Megan Salois said it is important to remember the difference between a watch and a warning.

"A watch is a longer period of time, it’s about 4-8 hours in length and that’s the time frame that you could potentially see storms that could form tornadoes," Salois said, "If there’s a warning it’s for a smaller area, for just part of a county. And if you are in part of a county that has a warning, you should obviously take the steps that you need to take cover because potentially there could be a tornado."

Salois said that it is also important to talk about a plan with family to make sure you are all on the same page and know where to go in case you get separated.

“So it is severe weather awareness week and it’s just important to know that over the next couple of months especially as we head into May and June, those are our two busiest months for tornadoes here in central Iowa. So this is a good time for you to get your plan together, know what you’d do if severe weather were coming toward your home and how you’d stay safe through it,” Salois said.

Ready.gov has a recommended supplies list  and basic supplies list for disaster kits:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Salois said some other good things to take with you before you head to the basement or an interior room for a tornado warning are a bike helmet, some shoes and a pillow case for various forms of protection.