Over the course of five days next week, Iowans will be encouraged to prepare and get more informed about severe weather. Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa is March 27 to 31 and will focus on a special aspect of weather each day. On Monday, it’s severe thunderstorms; Tuesday will focus on receiving warning information, and tornado awareness will be featured Wednesday, which also is the day of the statewide tornado drill. Family preparedness is the focus Thursday and flash flooding is Friday’s topic.

According to the National Weather Service, Statewide Severe Weather Awareness Week “is an opportunity to increase awareness of and response to severe weather hazards. They are scheduled throughout the spring, targeting a time before the spring severe weather ‘season’ typically begins in that state.”  Weather service officials are urging residents to plan to participate in the drill for their local areas, as this is an opportunity to test communication methods as if it were a real situation.

Clinton County Emergency Management Coordinator Chance Kness says Clinton County will participate in the statewide tornado drill at 10 a.m. March 29. He said letters will be going out to local schools, nursing homes and other organizations to remind them of the importance of practicing their responses to severe weather. Weather radios also are expected to sound alerts when the statewide drill is conducted, Kness said.

It is important to be ready for severe weather at any time, not just when tornado season is here. In fact, Kness says, during the past three years, tornadoes have been detected in Clinton County about a month earlier than is expected.

Such a situation did happen here just a few weeks ago when three tornadoes were confirmed to have swept through Clinton County on March 6. The most powerful was an EF-2 that traveled 34.7 miles from Walcott to Goose Lake. An EF-1 tornado with estimated peak winds of 110 miles per hour also touched down south of Low Moor and another EF-1 tornado traveled from Bennett, in Cedar County, to Wheatland, in western Clinton County.

The primary damage was sustained by farm buildings and trees, but some power poles were snapped by the winds. A roof also was ripped off a house.  While the winds can’t be stopped, there are ways to respond when severe weather strikes. According to the Red Cross:

 Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
 Watch for tornado danger signs: dark, often greenish clouds — a phenomenon caused by hail; a wall cloud — an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm; or a cloud of debris.
 Move or secure any of the items on your list of items to bring inside or anything else that can be picked up by the wind.  
  Bring your companion animals indoors and maintain direct control of them. 
  Go to a safe place in your home where household members and pets will gather: a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
 In a high-rise building, pick a hallway in the center of the building. You may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor.
 In a mobile home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building. If your mobile home park has a designated shelter, make it your safe place. No mobile home, however it is configured, is safe in a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, go there immediately, using your seat belt if driving.  
  If you are driving, stay away from bridge/highway overpasses. 
  If strong winds and flying debris occur while driving, pull over and park, keeping your seat belt on and engine running. Put your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket.  
  After a tornado, let friends and family know you are safe.  
  If evacuated from your home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
 Listen to local news or a weather radio. Check for injuries. If you are trained, provide first aid to people in need until first responders arrive.

And we would like to add: Be ready.

Assemble an emergency kit now. Practice where you would shelter during a storm now. Talk with your family about how you would contact each other, or where to meet, in the event a storm happened when you are not together. Now is the time to get ready.