The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

October 11, 2012

Weekend storm risk solidifies

OTTUMWA — It sounds odd to be talking about the potential for tornadoes in October, but Kevin Deitsch knows better than most how important it is.

"We've had tornadoes in Iowa every month of the year," he said. "In fall, people don't tend to associate it with severe weather."

Deitsch is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines. Like many in his profession, he's paying close attention to the system shaping up for this Saturday.

Storms feed on contrast. Damp, humid air hitting drier air can produce instability in the atmosphere. So can the collision of hot and cold air.

This weekend is more of the former, with a strong low pressure system coming up from the southwest. Deitsch said the storm will "pull up quite a bit of moisture." The difference between the wetter, warmer aid and the drier, cooler air could produce severe thunderstorms.

Severe weather can cover everything from strong winds, like those that toppled Chief Wapello from the Wapello County Courthouse this summer, to large hail and tornadoes. All three are a real threat this weekend, Deitsch said.

The Iowa Storm Chasing Network includes meteorologists and storm chasers who operate a website and stream live video of severe weather in Iowa. The site echoes Deitsch's warning:

"At this time it appears a handful of tornado producing storms may develop, later turning into an evening damaging wind event with an additional isolated tornado possible."

The obvious question is where the most intense storms will strike. That can't be said yet. "It's just too soon," said Deitsch.

So the standard advice for severe weather is what experts are urging people to review. Stay aware of the weather situation and know if storms are moving toward you. If you have a weather radio, make sure it's where you can hear it. And be prepared to take action if a warning is issued for your area.

Dangerous storms aren't common in October. But they have happened before and, unfortunately, it looks like they may happen again this weekend.

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