Friday…Family Preparedness

The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the National Weather Service have declared the week of March 23 through March 27, 2015 Severe Weather Awareness Week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to remind Iowans that severe weather is part of living in our state and that understanding the risks and how to respond to them can save lives. Each morning during severe weather awareness week, we’ll be focusing on a different severe weather topic. The topics this year include:

  • Monday – Flash Flooding
  • Tuesday – Warning Reception
  • Wednesday – Tornadoes
  • Thursday – Severe Thunderstorms
  • Friday – Family Preparedness

Disasters of all kinds disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you. But you need to be ready as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere. Being prepared for a disaster can reduce the fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany them.


Key Elements of a Disaster Plan

There are five key elements of a disaster plan:

  1. Learn about possible dangers in your area and become familiar with your community’s disaster response plan.
  2. Talk to your family about what to do in the event of an emergency. Pick two locations where you will meet: one close to your home and another removed from your neighborhood to be used if you are unable to return to your residence.
  3. Develop a communications plan to insure that your family will be able to stay in contact if separated during a disaster.
  4. Create disaster kits for your home, office, and car.
  5. Practice your plan!

Assembling a Disaster Kit

Ready Iowa! Kit Checklist (pdf)

A disaster kit is a collection of basic items that members of a household may need in the event of a disaster. An effective disaster kit contains enough food, water and other supplies for each person to last at least three days. You may want to consider having supplies for sheltering for up to two weeks, especially if you live in remote areas. Here is a basic list of items to include in a kit:

  • Bottled water and non-perishable food
  • Battery or hand crank radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First Aid supplies
  • Clothing, shoes and blankets
  • Whistle
  • Cash and coins
  • Photocopies of important family documents such as ID’s and credit cards
  • Baby needs
  • Sanitation items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper
  • Specialty items such as prescription medication and eyeglasses
  • Local Maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Games to pass time

Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.


First Aid

A good first aid kit is essential to any home and is imperative in a disaster supply kit. In an emergency, you or a family member may suffer an injury. If you have these basic first aid supplies, you are better prepared to help your loved ones when they are hurt. Here are some items which should be included in any first aid kit. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Prescription medication that you take every day (be sure to periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates)
  • Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
  • Scissors and tweezers
  • Antiseptic and anti-bacterial ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Thermometer
  • Cleansing agent/soap
  • Latex gloves
  • Sunscreen
  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication, antacid, and laxative

In Your Vehicle

Be prepared for an emergency by keeping your gas tank full and carry a cell phone when driving. If you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car, turn on your flashers, call for help, and wait until it arrives.

Here is a short video from FEMA about what a vehicle safety kit should include.


Develop a Family Evacuation Plan

Evacuations are more common than people realize. Hundreds of times each year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. Fires and floods cause evacuations even more frequently.

Tips for a good evacuation plan:

  • Plan routes from your residence to a safe location.
  • Plan for what you would need to take with you should you need to leave your home for an unknown period of time.
  • Ensure all family members know where to go should you become separated.
  • Radio messages will inform you of specific routes and shelter areas should a major incident occur.

If you should be evacuated, it is important to follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts as they may be blocked. Be alert for washed-out roads, bridges and downed power lines. If you have time, be sure to secure your home before leaving and let others know where you are going.


Don’t Forget Pets!

FEMA Information for Pet Owners (pdf)

If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your family, so make plans for your pets too! For public health reasons, most shelters do not accept pets. Prepare a list of kennels, friends, and family members who may be able to care for your pet in an emergency. Pack an emergency kit for your pets as well. This kit should include a supply of pet food, water, medications, veterinary records, and items like cat litter. Make sure identification tags are up to date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. It is also a good idea to have a photograph of you and your pet as this can establish ownership if your pet is lost.


Prepare Your Home

There are numerous steps you can take in and around your home to help limit the damage done by severe weather. Consider taking the following actions before severe weather blows through town.

      Thunderstorms and Strong Winds:

  • Remove dead or rotting tree branches that could fall and cause injury or damage.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors.

      Flooding:

  • Elevate the furnace, water heater, and electric panel in your home if you live in an area that has a high flood risk.
  • Consider installing sewer back-flow valves.
  • Add waterproof veneer to exterior walls.

Thursday…Severe Thunderstorms

The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the National Weather Service have declared the week of March 23 through March 27, 2015 Severe Weather Awareness Week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to remind Iowans that severe weather is part of living in our state and that understanding the risks and how to respond to them can save lives. Each morning during severe weather awareness week, we’ll be focusing on a different severe weather topic. The topics this year include:

  • Monday – Flash Flooding
  • Tuesday – Warning Reception
  • Wednesday – Tornadoes
  • Thursday – Severe Thunderstorms
  • Friday – Family Preparedness

Thunderstorms are a common occurrence each spring and summer across the Midwest and Iowa is not immune. Each year, Iowa sees hundreds of severe and non-severe thunderstorms. Thunderstorms can be extremely dangerous storms which may bring deadly tornadoes and lightning, damaging high winds and hail, and can lead to flash flooding.

The National Weather Service issues severe thunderstorm warnings for thunderstorms that are producing or are capable of producing:

  • Winds of at least 58 mph
  • Hail at least one inch in diameter

SevereCriteriaOftentimes, severe thunderstorms may be much stronger than the minimum criteria.


Straight-Line Winds

Straight-line wind is a term used to describe non-tornadic winds generated by severe thunderstorms. These winds have their origins aloft in the thunderstorm, where rain cools the air in its immediate vicinity. This cold air accelerates downward because it is denser than the surrounding air mass, and spreads out across the ground upon reaching the surface. These winds are typically in the 50 to 70 mph range, but in rare cases can exceed 100 or even 115 mph (similar to a Category 3 hurricane). Unlike tornadoes, downed trees and other debris trails are oriented in a single direction, hence the term “straight-line” winds.

Even though straight-line winds are not as strong as large tornadoes, they still have the ability to uproot trees, down power lines, damage buildings (especially grain bins, storage sheds, and other similar structures), and flatten crops. High profile vehicles are also vulnerable and can be flipped or forced off the road by these winds. Falling trees and other debris pose a hazard to anyone in their path; many deaths in straight-line wind storms are attributed to trees falling onto people in their cars or homes. Downed live power lines can easily electrocute and possibly kill anyone who comes in contact with them. Straight-line winds are responsible for most thunderstorm wind damage, and can cause damage equivalent to an EF-2 tornado. However, while a tornado damage track is relatively short and narrow, the damage swath from a straight-line wind event can be tens of miles wide and affect thousands of square miles.

Terms to Know:
  • Bow Echo: One of the more common straight-line wind storms. Consists of a long band of severe thunderstorms and appears bow-shaped on radar imagery (see image above). Bow echoes tend to produce a wide band of straight-line winds with the strongest winds located at the apex of the bow.
  • Downburst/Microburst: A small scale wind event typically on the order of a few miles in size and lasts for five to ten minutes. Generally associated with individual storm cells.
  • Derecho: A name given to an especially long-lasting straight-line wind storm that produces a large damage path, which may be hundreds of miles long.

Hail

Hail is frozen precipitation that falls from a thunderstorm and can grow to the size of softballs or larger, but is generally less than two inches in diameter. A strong thunderstorm updraft (rising air in a storm) is key for the production of hail. As rain near the base of the storm gets caught in the updraft, these drops get lofted high into the storm and freeze into small ice pellets. These ice pellets cycle through the updraft, repeatedly collecting more water and growing larger as they are lofted into the storm and freeze. Once the thunderstorm updraft can no longer support the hailstones, they fall to the ground. A number of meteorological factors can influence hail sizes, but the strength of the thunderstorm updraft (therefore, the strength of the storm itself) is the most critical.

Hail poses a serious threat to anyone outside and outdoor property. Large hailstones can fall at speeds of over 100 mph and easily injure or kill anyone caught in their path. Pets and livestock are also susceptible to injury or death by hail. In addition, strong winds during a hailstorm can amplify the effects of small hail and damage the sides of buildings. Close to a billion dollars in property damage is caused by hail each year, mostly to automobiles, house roofs, and crops.


Lightning

While undoubtedly the most commonly experienced severe weather threat, lightning is by far the deadliest of these phenomena. An average of 58 people are killed and over 300 injured in the United States each year by lightning, making it the third deadliest weather phenomenon (behind heat and floods). Lightning develops as the result of an electrostatic charge build-up in a thunderstorm, which is caused by colliding ice crystals high in the storm. This charge continues to build over time, with the bottom of the storm becoming negatively charged and the ground becoming positively charged. When the electric charge becomes too great, a large bolt of electricity, a lightning bolt, travels from one charge source to the other.

DSM Lightning 8

The temperature of lightning can exceed 50,000°F, over five times hotter than the surface of the sun. This super-heats the air around the bolt, producing a shock wave that we hear as thunder. Because sound waves travel much slower than light waves, the distance from a lightning bolt can be calculated using the time that elapses from when a lightning bolt is seen to when thunder is heard. Sound waves travel approximately one mile every five seconds, so one can divide the elapsed time by five to find the distance (in miles) between them and the lightning bolt. For example, if the time between the lightning strike and thunder is 20 seconds, 20 divided by 5 would be 4 miles.

Terms to Know:
  • Cloud-to-Cloud Lightning: A lightning bolt that travels from one cloud to another.
  • Cloud-to-Air Lightning: A lightning bolt that travels from a cloud to the air (relatively uncommon)
  • Cloud-to-Ground Lightning: A lightning bolt that travels from a cloud to the ground.

Wednesday…Tornadoes

The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the National Weather Service have declared the week of March 23 through March 27, 2015 Severe Weather Awareness Week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to remind Iowans that severe weather is part of living in our state and that understanding the risks and how to respond to them can save lives. Each morning during severe weather awareness week, we’ll be focusing on a different severe weather topic. The topics this year include:

  • Monday – Flash Flooding
  • Tuesday – Warning Reception
  • Wednesday – Tornadoes
  • Thursday – Severe Thunderstorms
  • Friday – Family Preparedness
Tornado Watch:

Issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Watches are generally issued for the duration of 4-8 hours, well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should be prepared to move to a place of safety if threatening weather approaches. On rare occasions, the Storm Prediction Center will issue a PDS Watch or Particularly Dangerous Situation. This means that the NWS has a high confidence of long-lived destructive tornadoes.

PDSWatch

Tornado Warning:

Issued by the National Weather Service when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately.

WatchvsWarning

Tornado Emergency:

A Tornado Emergency is issued by the National Weather Service. It is not a new warning, but is used to highlight a confirmed tornado which is expected to be strong and violent. A Tornado Emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue.

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Tornadoes In Iowa

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Tuesday…Warning Reception

The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the National Weather Service have declared the week of March 23 through March 27, 2015 Severe Weather Awareness Week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to remind Iowans that severe weather is part of living in our state and that understanding the risks and how to respond to them can save lives. Each morning during severe weather awareness week, we’ll be focusing on a different severe weather topic. The topics this year include:

  • Monday – Flash Flooding
  • Tuesday – Warning Reception
  • Wednesday – Tornadoes
  • Thursday – Severe Thunderstorms
  • Friday – Family Preparedness

There are so many different ways to find weather information these days and you just have to determine your preferred method. This is especially true during severe weather season as one of the most important precautions you can take in order to protect you and your family from severe weather is to be weather aware. Being weather aware means you are informed of the updated weather forecasts and potential weather hazards. It doesn’t stop at gathering weather information, what to do and where to go in a severe weather situation can save you and your family’s life. We highly recommend that you have multiple methods to receive National Weather Service Watch and Warning information. Ask yourself; “What is my primary source for receiving Watches and Warnings?” Your answer could vary from the internet or mobile device, commercial TV or radio, and NOAA Weather Radio.  It is up to you though to remain weather aware and take action as needed during severe weather.

One of the first items that you need to know is what is the difference between a watch and a warning, and then what you should do if the NWS issues one of these. A watch (whether Severe or Tornado) is issued to provide advance notice when atmospheric conditions are favorable for thunderstorm development capable of producing severe weather (large hail and damaging winds), tornadoes, or flash flooding.

WatchVSWarningSevereTSCriteria

Broadcast Commercial Media

The National Weather Service has a strong relationship with the broadcast media. The NWS relies on the broadcast media to help broadcast NWS warnings to the public. This is a very important relationship since most Iowans get severe weather warnings from commercial media.

Television Media

Television meteorologists and broadcasters transmit NWS warnings and watches to the public. In addition, they usually add value to the warnings with radar displays and visually explain where the threat is located. Studies have discovered that local commercial TV is the primary source of warning information (Wolf, 2009) reaching the majority of people. Warning information is supplied through reading NWS warnings on the air, or by scrolls providing the information. During high-end events, television stations will often go wall-to-wall with weather coverage, interrupting normal broadcasts. Warning reception from television stations is maximized during significant events in metro areas during daytime or evening hours and it is minimized during marginal severe events in rural areas at night.

Radio Media

Radio media is another important way Iowans get severe weather watches and warnings. The radio media varies from large AM stations with very extensive coverage areas to smaller stations scattered across Iowa. Several stations provide wall-to-wall severe weather coverage during high end events with a focus on their local area.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is used to broadcast severe weather warnings. When stations are closed, they use the EAS to transmit severe weather warnings directly from the NWS to the public.

NOAA Weather Radio

Known as the “Voice of the National Weather Service,” NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio (NWR) is provided as a public service by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce. NWR includes more than 900 transmitters, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. NWR requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal. Broadcasts are found in the public service band at these seven frequencies (MHz): NWRFrequencies

Modern NWR Receivers are often SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) capable, meaning they can be setup to only alert or turn on for specific areas (usually counties in the Midwest) by programming them via a small keypad on the receiver. In this manner, you won’t be awakened at 3 a.m. for a warning which is not of interest to you.

All Iowans should benefit from NWR since a NWR transmitter is likely within range. It is a great way to get a warning in the middle of the night when you may be asleep, or in remote locations.

NOAA Weather Radio is one of the best indoor warning systems available. Unfortunately, studies have shown that only 5-10 percent of the population owns a weather radio (Wolf, 2009).

NOAAWeatherRadio

WHAT IS “ALL HAZARDS” MESSAGING?
NWS forecast offices have pre-arranged agreements with emergency managers to facilitate the receipt and transmission of emergency non-weather related messages. These messages can be broadcast over the NOAA Weather Radio and may interrupt the regular broadcast using special alert tones and SAME codes. Examples of these non-weather events include:

  • Toxic chemical incidents
  • Nuclear power plant accidents
  • AMBER Alerts

Outdoor Warning System

When it comes to severe weather, outdoor warning systems (sometimes known as sirens) have one purpose and one purpose only – to alert people who are outdoors that something dangerous is happening and they should go inside. Depending on local policy, sirens may be sounded for a variety of life-threatening hazards, but always with the intent that people outdoors should seek shelter.

Across Iowa, local siren activation policies vary widely. The city or county government is usually in charge of siren activation policy. The National Weather Service does not have the authority to activate siren systems, but the NWS works closely with communities with severe weather warning systems, including storm sirens.

For severe weather, most communities sound sirens anytime a tornado warning is in effect for their area. Other communities have stricter policies and only activate the outdoor warning system for actual tornado sightings, while a few activate sirens for both severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. The NWS encourages communities to activate outdoor warning sirens for high-end severe thunderstorms (wind speeds above 75 mph and/or hail of two inches or greater). To find out your community’s siren policy, check with the local emergency management agency.

Mobile Devices, Social Media, and the Internet

Select high impact NWS warnings are sent to cell phones as a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). Additional alerts from other government agencies, such as FEMA, may also be sent to your phone. Here is how it works: If you are at home, or traveling in an area where a warning has been issued, your phone will receive alerts broadcast by nearby cell towers. If your phone is enabled to receive alerts, your phone will receive an alert the resembles a text message, the message will be no longer than 90 characters. The alert will have a special tone and vibration, repeated twice, so that you will be able to tell it apart from a regular message. If you receive an alert, you should follow any action advised by the emergency message and seek additional details. The service is free of charge and messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan. It comes enabled on newer cell phones depending on the carrier.

In recent years, many more people receive severe weather warnings over the internet. Most people still use desktop or laptop PC’s to gain access to the internet. Internet access is expanding rapidly and now many people have internet access on their cellular phones or tablets.

People use various websites which have access to NWS warnings. The direct way to access NWS warnings is over its website at: weather.gov. For central Iowa, add “Des Moines” to the end of the URL or: weather.gov/desmoines. The NWS website is also available on mobile devices at mobile.weather.gov. Now available is an experimental “NWS Widget” that adapts to your PC or mobile device using any internet browser. See the image below for some quick instructions. The NWS Widget sort of works as an app on your smart phone or tablet. There are many other third-party apps available that display NWS watches and warnings,

Another major advantage about the internet is viewing warnings graphically. Since NWS warnings are issued based on the storm and not the county, modern severe weather warnings are best viewed graphically to see exactly where the warning is in effect.

Social media is a tremendous tool in receiving and sending weather information. However, Social Media is not an official WARNING Dissemination Method, so you may not always receive the information you’re looking for or need to stay safe. Also, be mindful on what you share and re-tweet, there are a lot of fake images that surface during major severe weather event. Make sure you trust the source of the image! Follow and interact with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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WeatherApps

Monday…Flash Flooding

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The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division and the National Weather Service have declared the week of March 23 through March 27, 2015 Severe Weather Awareness Week. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual event to remind Iowans that severe weather is part of living in our state and that understanding the risks and how to respond to them can save lives. Each morning during severe weather awareness week, we’ll be focusing on a different severe weather topic. The topics this year include:

  • Monday – Flash Flooding
  • Tuesday – Warning Reception
  • Wednesday – Tornadoes
  • Thursday – Severe Thunderstorms
  • Friday – Family Preparedness

FlashFloodRisks2Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard, resulting in more than 140 fatalities each year. The majority of flash floods are caused by slow moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms that redevelop over the same area, or heavy rains from tropical storms and hurricanes. These floods can develop within minutes or hours depending on the intensity and duration of the rain, the topography, soil conditions, and ground cover.

What is a Flash Flood? DidYouKnow2

A flash flood is a rapid rise of water along a stream or low-lying urban area. Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels. Rapidly rising water can reach heights of 30 feet or more. Flash flood-producing rains also can trigger catastrophic mud slides.

Flash Flood Myths versus Facts Matching Game

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Almost half of all flash flood fatalities east year occur in vehicles. Many folks don’t realize that just 2 feet of water flowing over the road can sweep away a vehicle. Sometimes even less water if the water is flowing rapidly! Even SUVs and trucks can be swept away with a flash flood. Water can cause significant structural damage to roads and bridges, creating very unsafe driving conditions. Underpasses can fill up quickly with water and driving into one could put yourself into six feet of water very fast. Many flash flood, and thus flash flood related deaths, occur at night as the roads and water are difficult to see. This is especially true in Iowa as a high percentage of heavy rain events occur with the sunset.

FlashFloodSafety

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Flash Flooding

 

What is a Flash Flood Watch and Warning? And what actions should be done when NWS issues a Flash Flood Watch or Warning?

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