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Keeping an eye on the sky

Iowa Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 23-27, promotes proper planning and response

A steady stream of straight-line winds crumple a handful of grain bins July 5, 2018, along REA Road in rural Union County during a severe thunderstorm warning.
A steady stream of straight-line winds crumple a handful of grain bins July 5, 2018, along REA Road in rural Union County during a severe thunderstorm warning.

As southwest Iowans are assessing the hail damage received from the most recent storm, Iowa recognizes this week as its annual Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Each day focuses on different aspects of severe weather in an attempt to educate the public on proper responses to severe weather and the inner workings of storm monitoring on a national, state and local level.

In the Creston area, storms are monitored and reported by the Creston Fire Department.

“We monitor the National Weather Service,” said Casey Carpenter, Batallion Chief for the Creston Fire Department. “We will look at the radar and send out a truck to monitor the storm.”

Fire departments will follow the storms and watch from a safe distance.

“We’re looking for and reporting back what the weather conditions are like,” said Carpenter. “We report the information to Des Moines and make sure the alarms are set off if needed.”

After a storm has passed through, the fire department helps with the aftermath.

“Our responsibility in the aftermath would be working as part of a unified command,” said Carpenter.

A unified command involves various agencies such as fire departments, police and sheriff’s offices and county roads workers.

“The fire department would then start sending people out to assess damage and check buildings to make sure nobody is trapped,” said Carpenter.

When weather begins to sour and there are indications of a tornado, Carpenter said it’s important to get to a pre-determined safe area as soon as possible.

“Make sure you’re in the basement,” said Carpenter. “Have a radio and a flashlight. If you don’t have a basement, find somewhere with no windows toward the center of the house.”

The National Weather Service said the best steps to take in preparation for a severe storm are:

• Know the hazards — Be aware of the hazards that you might face during a weather event.

• Know when to expect severe weather — Monitor forecasts and information from your local National Weather Service Forecast Office.

• Pay attention — Be aware of all watches, warnings, and advisories affecting you.

• Know the hazards — Think about it before it happens and be ready to act to survive.

To do their part in preparedness, Iowa regularly holds educational courses and a statewide tornado drill during severe weather awareness week, but such events have been cancelled.

For more information on how to build an emergency supply kit or make an emergency plan, visit www.beready.iowa.gov.

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