New severe storm warning system starts April 1 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New severe storm warning system starts April 1


With snow falling this weekend, it's hard to think about tornado season, but Monday is the beginning of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

This year, you'll notice some changes when storm warnings are issued.

It's been nearly two years, but the devastation of the Joplin, Missouri, EF5 tornado is hard to forget.

One hundred and fifty-eight people were killed, 1,000 were injured, and property damage stretched for miles. In the storm's aftermath, meteorologists learned scary things about just why the tornado was so bad.

"There was a large percentage of people that ignored the warnings because there were so many warnings, and they said, 'Well, this is just another one that's going to go along,'" said KWWL meteorologist Jeff Kennedy.

To help prevent that from happening, the National Weather Service decided to test a new system of weather warnings in two states last year.

This year, "impact-based warnings" will be tested in 14 more states, including Iowa.

Instead of just a "tornado warning," messages will include more specific details, including the potential damage a storm could do, using words like "catastrophic" and "life-threatening."

"The intent is that it puts more of a personal impact-type of explanation on it, so that if somebody hears this is classified 'catastrophic,' and we've got large portions of towns being destroyed, people might take that a little more serious than just hearing a siren blow," said Kip Ladage, Bremer County Emergency Management Coordinator.

This year, many meteorologists are also using an enhanced type of radar that can help give a better picture of storms.

"We think with the dual polarization radar we'll be able to see even more detail, and I'm sure that we'll learn even more and more about severe storms," Kennedy said.

Of course the goal of better technology and new warnings is saving lives. After all, in a tornado, seconds count in giving you time to take cover.

"Emergency Management, working with the National Weather Service and the local media, we do our best to get warnings out as quickly as we can using every tool we've got possible," said Ladage. "If the weather service has issued that warning, please take it seriously."

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, Iowa will hold its annual statewide tornado drill. Weather permitting, the test will happen this Wednesday between 10 and 10:30 a.m.

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