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Severe Weather Safety Tips and Information



Before The Storm:
  • Develop a disaster plan for you and your family at home, work, school and when outdoors.
  • Identify a safe place to take shelter.
  • Have frequent drills.
  • Know the county in which you live or visit so you know if your area is under posted bulletins and warnings. -CLICK HERE FOR A MAP OF IOWA COUNTIES-
  • Keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement from weather bulletins.
  • Have a portable Weather Radio with a warnings alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.
  • Listen to TV or radio for weather information, or go online.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended periods outdoors. Watch for signs of approaching storms.
  • If severe weather threatens, check on people who are elderly, very young or physically or mentally disabled.
  • Don't forget about pets.

During A Tornado Warning:

  • If you're in a house with a basement: Get into the basement and under sturdy protection (like a work bench or table) or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Avoid being under heavy objects on the floor above you (i.e. refrigerator).
  • If you're in a house with NO basement: Avoid windows and go to a room in the center of the building, like a bathroom or closet, under a stairwell or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor facing down and cover your head with your hands. Surround yourself with pillows or couch cushions.
  • If you're in a mobile home: Get out! Even tied down, a mobile home is not safe in a tornado.
  • If you're outdoors: Find a sturdy building if possible. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back or your head with your arms. Stay away from objects that could be moved by the wind.
  • If you're in a vehicle: Park the automobile out of traffic lanes. Get to a sturdy building, or get to low ground and lie flat, face-down. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges.
  • If you're at a school: Listen to teaching staff or administration for directions. Auditoriums, gyms and other free-span rooms are not an ideal shelter. Go to interior rooms on the lowest floor, but avoid halls that open to the outside in any direction. Stay away from glass. Crouch and cover your head with your hands.
  • If you're at a shopping center, hospital or factory: Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass-enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs. Crouch down and cover your head with your hands.


After a Storm:


  • Watch out for fallen power lines and stay out of the damaged area.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home for damage.
  • Do not use candles in case of undetected gas leaks.


  • In an average year, tornadoes cause 70 fatalities and 1,500 injuries nationwide.
  • Tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, but are found most frequently in the U.S.
  • Tornadoes can produce winds in excess of 250 mph.
  • Tornadoes can be more than a mile wide and stay on the ground for more than 50 miles.
  • The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but they have been known to move in any direction.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes which form over warm water.
  • Tornadoes can occur any time of the year.
  • Twisters are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m., but can happen at any time.
  • Each spark of lightning can soar to 50,000 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  • There are 1,800 thunderstorms in progress at any given time on Earth.
  • Lightning has been known to strike 10 miles from the storm in an area of clear sky above.
  • The longest bolt of lightning seen to date was 118 miles long. It was seen in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
  • Lightning strikes 30 million points on the ground in a given year in the U.S.
  • Lightning injures approximately 1000 people each year.
  • Flooding causes more damage in the U.S. than any other severe weather related event-an average of $4.6 billion per year from 1984-2003.
  • Flooding can occur in any of the 50 states or U.S. territories any time of the year.
  • Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are vehicle-related.
  • Most flash floods are caused by slow moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms that move repeatedly over the same area or heavy rains from tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Flash floods can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings and bridges, and scour out new channels.


  • WatchesA watch tells you that conditions are favorable and there is a good chance that the event may happen. When a watch is issued begin making preparations for the upcoming event. Tune in to for more information. Watches are intended to heighten public awareness of the situation.
  • WarningsA warning means that a certain weather event is IMMINENT. Measures should be taken to safeguard life and property IMMEDIATELY!
  • Flash Flood Warning:  A Flash Flood Warning will be issued in response to a few hours of locally heavy rainfall, a dam or levee failure, or water released from an ice jam rapidly flooding nearby land.
  • Severe Thunderstorm WarningWhen a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued, tornadoes and/or severe thunderstorms are occurring and have been spotted or detected by radar. The National Weather Service (NWS) defines a severe thunderstorm as having winds 50 knots (58 mph) or hail greater than .75" in diameter (about dime-sized). (A storm that spawns a tornado is obviously also considered severe.) There is imminent danger for people in the area warned. Issued by a local NWS office, the size of the warning area is generally the size of one or two counties and usually lasts less than an hour.
  • Tornado WarningWhen a Tornado Warning is issued, tornadoes are occurring and have been spotted or detected by radar. There is IMMINENT DANGER for people in the area warned. Issued by a local NWS office, the size of the warning area is generally the size of one or two counties and usually lasts less than an hour.


High winds, thunder and lightning can be traumatic to some pets during severe storms. Loud sounds, such as thunderous lightning claps, often produce anxiety, fear and a need to escape. The following helpful hints can help your pets brave the weather and reduce their fear and anxiety.
  • Create a Safe Place:  Try to create a safe place for your animals. If the animal is trying to get under your bed, give them access to your bedroom. You can also create a "hidey-hole" that is dark, small and shielded from the frightening sounds as much as possible.
  • Distract Your Dog: Use this method when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Encourage them to engage in any activity that captures their attention and distracts her from being fearful. Examples include playing with toys, throwing a ball to them indoors, petting them, etc.
  • De-Sensitize Them to Frightening Sounds: Over a period of time, expose your pet to an intensity level of noise that doesn't frighten her. Pair the noise with something pleasant, like a treat or a fun game. Professional guidance by a trained professional is greatly encouraged for this method.
  • Consult Your VeterinarianMedication may be available which can help reduce your dog's anxiety levels for short time periods.
  • Include Pets in Severe Weather Evacuation Plans:  During severe weather, don't forget to include your pets in your evacuation or safety plans. Do not keep pets tied to trees or fences during lightning, flooding, tornadoes or hurricanes. Animals should take the same cover that humans do during severe weather. Make sure your pet has a secure collar and identification tags. Also consider creating a "Pet Disaster Kit."

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