By CELIA BROCKER
With the increasing news coverage of natural disasters, Iowa may be seen as a relatively safe place. Here we don’t have to worry about earthquakes, tsunamis or hurricanes. However, one dramatic form of weather we do have to worry about is tornadoes.
While dangerous, tornadoes are usually something survivable. This is because the Weather Service is able to predict when a tornado is most likely to occur. Then the Weather Service issues a tornado watch/warning on TV and sounds sirens to alert the public to find shelter. It’s wise to move to a basement to avoid injury should a tornado occur.
(Note: A tornado watch is when conditions are favorable to produce a tornado. A tornado warning is when a tornado has been spotted or picked up on radar.)
On Oct. 9, a siren alerted Drake University of a tornado warning, confusing several students who are not from the Midwest.
“I was working, and all of a sudden I got a tornado alert on my phone,” said Lasha Stewart, a first-year student. “And I didn’t know if I should go down to the basement or if I should stay where was at.” Students were told to return to their dormitories or to take shelter temporarily in a basement.
According to the National Weather Service, last year Iowa had a total of 55 tornadoes, which is an above average occurrence of tornado activity. Most of them occurred between the months of March and June. There were no recorded tornadoes from September to November. As a country, the U.S. has an average of 1,000 tornadoes a year.
For all the tornadoes Iowa experienced last year, none of them were above a two on the EF scale. A minor tornado (0) has a wind speed up to 72 mph, while a moderate tornado (1) has a wind speed between 73 and 112 mph. With each tornado gradually increasing in wind speed and potential damage on the scale till level 5. Fortunately, those tornadoes are not that common; most tornadoes that occur fall into the ‘weaker’ category. The average wind speed of a tornado is 112 mph.
If there is severe weather on campus, Drake University’s closing policy is as follows:
“Official class cancellations, university delays or closings are infrequent events. In certain circumstances such as inclement weather, power outages or other extreme conditions, the Provost will make the decision regarding class cancellations, university delays or closings after consulting with appropriate members of the University community.”
It is important to distinguish between class cancellations, university delays and closings.
To learn more about the weather in the U.S., visit the website for the National Centers for Environmental Information.