Be prepared: Severe weather season is here


Photo courtesy NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).

Talk of severe weather in Iowa often conjures up images of tornadoes, which are certainly a possibility as spring and summer storms ramp up. But more common dangers are lightning and flooding, especially as work and recreational activities move outdoors.

Here's a quick reminder from ISU's environmental health and safety (EH&S) department and the National Weather Service about how to stay safe from lightning, flooding and tornadoes. EH&S also has free weather radios and shelter signs available for ISU departments and buildings. Contact EH&S, 4-8090, for more details.

For all severe weather

  • Be aware of weather conditions at all times, especially if severe weather is predicted
  • Sign up for an email or text alert from local television stations
  • Download a weather app for smart phones or mobile devices (many are free)
  • If you receive a severe weather message, spread the word to your co-workers and family members, especially those who work outside

For lightning

  • All thunderstorms produce lightning. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to harm you
  • If you are planning outdoor activities, know where to go for safety and how long it will take to get there
  • Consider postponing outdoor activities if thunderstorms are predicted
  • If you hear thunder -- even in the distance -- move to a safe place. Fully enclosed buildings are best. Sheds, picnic tables, tents and covered porches do not protect from lightning. If no safe buildings are nearby, jump in a car (with a hard metal top) and close all the windows. Stay put for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
  • Don't use a corded phone while it's thundering and lightning, unless it's an emergency. Cordless and cell phones are OK.
  • Don't take a bath or shower (or use any plumbing fixtures) during a thunderstorm since water pipes conduct electricity

For flooding

  • Head to higher ground if a flash flood warning is issued for your area
  • Don't walk through floodwaters. As little as 6 inches of rushing water can sweep you off your feet.
  • Don't drive through floodwaters. Most cars can be swept away in less than 2 feet of moving water.
  • If you live or work in a flood-prone area, consider gathering emergency supplies, such as:
    • Three-day supply of nonperishable food and water
    • Flashlight
    • Seven-day supply of medications
    • Copies of personal documents (insurance policies, birth certificates, deed/lease to home, etc.)
    • Cell phone with charger
    • Tools for securing your home
    • Insect repellent and sunscreen
    • Extra sets of car and house keys
    • Camera to shoot photos of damage to your property

For tornadoes

  • If you hear a tornado siren while inside a building, go to a windowless interior room on the lowest level; bathrooms often are best.  Avoid buildings with large expansive roof structures, like the Armory. Many campus buildings have designated storm shelters.
  • If you are walking across campus and hear the tornado siren, get to the nearest building and follow the same procedures
  • If you are driving a car and debris begins flying around you, pull over and park. Your next two options are:
    • Stay in the car and buckle your seatbelt. Keep your head below the windows and cover it with your hands or a blanket.
    • If you can safely get to a ditch or area lower than the road, exit the car, lie down and cover your head

For additional severe weather safety information, visit the EH&S or the National Weather Service websites.