Disaster Officials in Iowa Call for Storm Preparedness

By DAVID PITT | May 8, 2014

The state’s top disaster services official said Monday the death of two Iowa residents during April 27 storms highlights the need for people to prepare for storms and for the state that means helping school districts get the money to build safe rooms.

The storm that struck Keokuk County just over a week ago was not identified as a tornado by the National Weather Service until after a second person died, said Mark Schouten, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. One woman was killed near Martinsburg, the other near Kinross. Both were caught outside when winds hit.

“The National Weather Service has confirmed that an EF1 tornado developed in Wapello County then crossed through Keokuk and Iowa counties ending in Johnson County,” Gov. Terry Branstad said at his weekly news conference. “Many areas of the state experienced damage caused by straight line winds and thousands of homes lost their power. This was an unfortunate reminder that severe weather can strike any time and that we’re all susceptible.”

Schouten, who Branstad asked to attend the news conference to discuss storm preparedness, said people should stay informed about storms as they develop by using a cellphone weather application that provides tornado alerts or by being of reports from local radio or television stations. He said families should have an emergency plan including a location where family members will meet if disaster strikes and an emergency supply kit ready at home and in the car.

“Taking just a few minutes today to plan what you will do in an emergency can keep you and your family safe and may also save a life,” he said.

Schouten said the state’s preparedness also has included helping schools build safe rooms that can withstand tornadoes.

The agency released information that shows 40 tornado safe rooms have been approved or completed at a cost of over $42 million. The projects are paid for through a program involving the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state.

There are not yet enough safe rooms yet in Iowa, Schouten said. The state has 351 school districts and the funded projects involve 33 districts.

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