It’s Severe Weather Awareness week in Iowa, which means schools ,residents and businesses are encouraged to practice drills in case of severe weather, like tornadoes.
The purpose is for residents, businesses, and schools to practice looking for a safe, secure place to go as if it were an actual tornado warning.
Reading and writing was replaced by hustling and bustling Wednesday in Mrs. Lucas’ 3rd grade class as the alarm sounded warning everyone at St. Paul’s school in Davenport of a tornado.
The students form a line and walk down the hall to the basement where they wait.
“I always tell them ‘Now, if this was a real storm I’d reroute you,” said Principal Julie Delaney. “So, today we did the rerouting to see how it would work and if we could fit everybody in.”
Recent tornadoes in the Dallas area made the drill all the more relevant.
“It does make it more urgent and more important that we keep the kids safe and that they’re comfortable with where they go,” said Delaney. “That it’s routine to them.”
“In the case of severe weather, seconds can make a big difference and you don’t want any hesitation when it comes time to take action,” said Donna Dubberke, Warning Coordinator Meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
But, it’s not just monster tornadoes that can wreak havoc during severe weather season, the peak of which typically runs April through May.
“We also have extreme wind storms,” said Dubberke. “Back in2008, we saw that and when a storm gets that strong, it really should be treated like a tornado.”
A new impact warning system with more dramatic language is being tested right now by the National Weather Service.
The hope is people will take the warnings seriously and seek shelter immediately before it’s too late.
As for the drill at St. Paul’s school, officials say it was a success.
“In less than three minutes everybody was in their spot, or near their new spot, which was really good,” said Delaney.
The new warning system is being tested in Kansas, Missouri and south of the Quad Cities in Illinois.
Illinois did tornado drills last month.