BY CINDY TOOPES
COURIER STAFF WRITER
---- — OTTUMWA — The National Weather Service believes severe weather could return to Iowa this weekend.
The storms are expected to arrive late in the weekend and could extend into the next work week. Meteorologist Kurt Kotenberg said Sunday and Monday have the greatest risk.
"We could see strong to possibly severe storms across Iowa, and those will start Sunday afternoon," Kotenberg said. "I guess the greatest chance possibly will be in western Iowa.”
That doesn't let eastern Iowa off the hook, though. The map put out by forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center includes all but part of northwestern Iowa in Sunday's area at risk.
The threat shifts east Monday, but not enough to remove the threat of severe weather from the area. On Monday, forecasters say a swath from Dubuque southwest to Dallas, Texas, could be at risk. It's too early to say whether the main threat will be tornadoes, hail or strong winds.
All of this comes as Iowa is in the midst of a record-breaking streak for relative calm. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said Thursday that Iowa has set a new record for days without a tornado. The old record was May 5, 1955, to April 26, 1956. Iowa's last tornado hit on May 24, 2012.
"Each day from here, we keep breaking today's record, and the streak will keep going until we have another tornado in Iowa," Hillaker said. "As of [Wednesday], Iowa set the new record of 355 days without a tornado."
What makes the streak amazing is that the current record was set in the 1950s. Hillaker said meteorologists now have equipment that helps them detect tornadoes, and there are storm chasers looking for funnel clouds. People who chase storms now carry cell phones and cameras, vastly expanding the opportunities to document tornadic storms.
"That's recent phenomena. In the 1950s, we had to have some kind of clear-cut tornado damage," Hillaker said.