As United Methodists in Iowa are praying and mourning over the storm damage in Muscatine and Seymour on Monday, March 6, the Iowa Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Catie Newman said now is the time to start thinking about spring weather.
“Spring is coming and with spring, comes spring storms,” she said. “It’s a good reminder and a good time to start thinking about preparedness.”
Iowa has already had its first major round of spring storms in Eastern Iowa. Three tornadoes were spotted, one right next to the Mississippi River. The storms luckily did not harm people in Iowa, but did cause great damage in Illinois and Missouri.
Newman said there are three tips to be prepared for Iowa spring weather: be aware, be prepared and knowing when to take action.
Learn to be aware of your surroundings, Newman said. Pay attention to the weather around you. The easiest indicator of inclement weather is the color of the sky and cloud formations
. A good indicator of a mature thunderstorm is a cumulonimbus cloud. These are large cauliflower-looking clouds. Rapid vertical growth indicates a storm is on the way. Anvil clouds are flat on top. According to the National Weather Service they can spread up to “hundreds of miles downwind from the thunderstorm itself.” The sky becomes dark, often greenish in hue.
Of course the easiest way to be aware of storms is through radio and television. If you can’t be near a television or radio, most stations have apps or you can download weather apps on your phone. The Conference Disaster Response team also sends email blasts when there is inclement weather. To sign up for the email list, email Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Take a minute, no matter where you are, to plan out what you’d do if there’s a crisis,” said Newman. “What would you do if there was an eminent storm and you need to take cover?”
According to the FEMA website, www.ready.gov
, you should always make a family communications plan and build an emergency kit. Newman suggests including: water, food, extra shoes and clothes, batteries for flashlights and cell phones, medication lists and a list of phone numbers. Other items to include are: battery-powered or hand-crank radio, first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, a dust mask, plastic sheeting, duct tape, sanitary supplies, wrench or pliers to shut off utilities, a can opener and local maps. Ready.gov recommends including enough supplies for at least three days.
Knowing the difference between weather alerts can help save a life. People sometimes confuse a storm watch with a storm warning.
“Warning has an ‘r’ in it, that means run, take cover,” said Newman. “A watch means that a storm could possibly happen.”
In the event of a storm warning, FEMA said to find shelter as quickly as possible and stay away from windows and doors. Avoid contact with electrical equipment and plumbing as they can conduct electrical currents. Also avoid corded phones or devices, although cell phone and cordless phones are ok to use.
After a severe storm occurs, the Iowa Conference deploys district disaster response coordinate. Every district in Iowa has its own coordinator. They are the first from the conference to respond. If the storm did not cause major damage, the district coordinator will provide resources necessary to the district and keep conference staff informed of the situation.
However, if there is large scale damage, like the damage in Muscatine’s Wesley United Methodist Church, Newman and other conference staff will come with resources. The Conference can deploy a tool trailer, call up volunteers and deliver water and other supplies.
In the incidence of major damage, remember to wait until the all clear has been given by the conference to go to the site to volunteer. Or, better yet, email Newman and the Disaster Response Team for ways you can help. Newman wants to stress that safety is always the first priority when it comes to preparedness and after disaster strikes, especially with the upcoming season.
“The National Weather Service says there will be a more active weather season this summer,” she said. “So I think it’s best to be prepared.”
Visit the following websites for more resources.
Iowa Conference Disaster Ministries
Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency
The National Weather Service
The Weather Channel