OTTUMWA — Few aspects of life have completely escaped the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, not even the weather. Well, weather preparedness, anyway.

This is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Iowa. But the statewide tornado drill, the most visible part of the week, was called off amid concerns about having people in close quarters during a drill.

While the changes make getting word out more difficult, officials are still hoping people take the time to make sure they’re ready for severe weather this spring. That includes planning for how you will know to act.

The National Weather Service wants people to think of four basic questions:

• How will my family get emergency alerts and warnings?

• How will my family get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?

• How will my family get in touch if cellphone, internet or landline phones don’t work?

• How will I let loved ones know I am safe?

While media outlets announce warnings and many cellphones will receive automatic alerts, having backup ways of getting warnings is always a good idea. Weather radios are not overly expensive and can be programmed to only go off for specific types of severe weather.

Most people have a basic idea of what safe locations they have available at home. Interior rooms away from windows provide safety during thunderstorms; basements are a better option if there is a tornado warning. But the steps after a storm — getting in touch with family and communicating with others — is easier to overlook.

Basic outlines for plans can be found at, and one key suggestion is to have a contact outside the community who can coordinate with family members. It can be easier to communicate with someone at a distance in some cases because of the volume of local calls being made.

Much of the preparation comes down to communication. If you do it now, you’ll probably have an easier time communicating when it’s really needed.

— Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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