Become “family prepared” during Severe Weather Awareness Week March 27-31

The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD), National Weather Service (NWS), and Iowa Emergency Management Association (IEMA) have joined together to promote Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 27-31.

“Iowa is no stranger to severe weather,” said HSEMD Director John Benson. “We frequently see tornadoes, flooding, straight-line winds and even derechos. So take the time now to prepare yourself and your family so you know what to do if severe weather is headed your way.”

Benson urges Iowans to take three simple steps to be better prepared:

  • Be aware of weather hazards by signing up for emergency notifications through Alert Iowa ( or use a NOAA Weather Radio or other type of alerting tool.
  • Make an emergency plan with your family. Think about where you will go and what actions you will need to take to stay safe if you are impacted by severe weather.
  • Build an emergency kit with items you and your family will need if you must evacuate your home.

For each day during Severe Weather Awareness Week a different subject will be highlighted:

  • Monday – Severe thunderstorms
  • Tuesday – Weather alerts
  • Wednesday – Tornadoes
  • Thursday – Family preparedness
  • Friday – Flash floods

The annual statewide tornado drill will take place on Wed., March 29, beginning at 10 a.m. during the weekly NOAA Weather Radio test. In the event of severe weather, the drill will be postponed to March 30 at 10 a.m. Additional information about the tornado drill can be found on local NWS websites.


The National Weather Service officially defines severe thunderstorms as storms that are capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger or wind gusts over 58 mph. Hail this size can damage property such as plants, roofs, and vehicles. Wind this strong is able to break off large branches, knock over trees, or cause structural damage to trees.

Some thunderstorms can produce hail larger than softballs or winds over 100 mph, so please pay attention to the weather as you know when severe storms are possible. Thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes and dangerous lightning, and heavy rain can cause flash flooding.

To learn more, visit the Severe Thunderstorm Safety page on the National Weather Service website.

Learn About Thunderstorms

Thunderstorm Safety (PDF)


Today’s technology offers many ways to be alerted to severe weather. The most important point is to be intentional and proactive by having multiple ways to receive warnings, know which hazards alert on the various systems, choose the alert methods that work best for you in different situations (at home, at the ball park, etc.), and react quickly when the hazard occurs.

Some types of alerting systems include:


Do you know the difference between a National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Watch and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning? Check your knowledge below.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared! Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action! Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a large hail or damaging wind identified by an NWS forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

Watches and Warnings (PDF)