Being prepared when severe weather strikes
Iowa Severe Weather Awareness Week — March 25-29 — is a time to form preparedness plans for how to stay safe when inclement weather occurs.
“I think having a safety plan is critical,” Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper said. “Making sure your family knows the safety plan and what to do when everyone is separated in different locations due to school or work is important. A safety kit so you can get by a couple days without power is important. Last, but not least, always heed storm warnings and seek shelter immediately.”
Tornados can happen any time of the day or any time of the year, although they’re more common in late afternoon and are more prevalent in spring and summertime. The EF-3 tornado that devasted Marshalltown on July 19, 2018 took place from 4:24 p.m. to 4:47 p.m., had a path length of 8.93 miles and a width of 1,200 yards. While the tornado lasted 23 minutes, its impact is still felt on a daily basis eight months later.
Many Iowans are dealing with the effects of flooding due to the quickly melting snow causing rivers to overflow.
“This was one of those years we saw the Highway 330 and 14 road closures because of flooding. It’s at the top of our minor flooding stage list, but isn’t considered major,” Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder said.
Elder said people should not drive through standing water. Also, be aware of toxins that can contaminate flood waters.
“Basements can flood and electrical problems can occur,” she said. “People need to report damages to my office so we can keep track, and to know when we need to send people out to make repairs in the county.”
Central Iowans have also dealt with fog in recent weeks, which can delay flights, slow down traffic, and cause accidents. Elder said driving with low beams can help with short-term illumination of a road when it is hard to see into the distance.
Some forms of severe weather have impacted Marshall County more than others.
“In terms of historical data, it would be windstorms. We always think tornadoes, but the high wind events are probably one of our highest (threats) and hail,” Elder said. “Compared to tornadoes, wind storms can be much wider, much larger, with sustained winders that last longer and a wider area of damage.”
There have been at least three major droughts in the U.S. in the past 100 years. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the 1950s drought each lasted 5-7 years and encompassed a large region of the country. From 1980-2014 there were 22 drought events with losses exceeding $1 billion (CPI-Adjusted) each across the United States, according to the National Weather Service.
Elder said that while most people don’t consider lightning to be a severe weather issue, it can be deadly. A flash of lightning has the power to heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface.
“When thunder roars, go indoors is the motto,” Elder said.
Marshalltown Fire Chief David Rierson said having a basic first aid kit on your property is the first step in addressing bleeding. Flashlights and extra batteries are essential when the power is out.
Elder said every county reports severe weather damages to the state, regardless of severity.
“The number may not help that county get help, but it helps with the overall number for the whole state so that those that are really hurting, like Western Iowa right now with flooding, can get the help it needs if the state as a whole reaches a certain level of damages,” she said.
Severe weather damage can be reported to Elder at 641-754-6385 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also message the Marshall County Emergency Management’s Facebook page.
Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at