Campus News

Severe weather: When the sirens sound

The arrival of spring and warmer weather usually brings the start of Severe Weather season here in Iowa, but not so in 2023. 

The first event was in January, and according to the National Weather Service these were the first tornadoes reported in Iowa in the month of January since Jan. 24, 1967. Additional events of severe weather on March 31 and April 4 prompted the Linn County Emergency Management Agency to sound what are commonly known as “tornado sirens.” The agency is located at Kirkwood Community College’s main campus. 

According to Thomas Ulrich, Operations and Readiness for the Linn County Emergency Management Agency, there are criteria to sound the sirens. “Severe weather, tornadoes, tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service and/or tornado or funnel cloud reported by a trained spotter. These are: Wind 70 mph or greater, or golf ball sized hail or larger, tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service, local life-threatening non-weather emergencies (hazmat incident, terrorism, nuclear emergency, etc.) that pose a threat,” he said.  

Ulrich added there are “approximately 155” sirens in Linn County.

According to Ulrich, the activation of the Outdoor Warning Siren System is intended to notify individuals who are outdoors, where other means of notification may not be available. “When the outdoor warning sirens are activated, we encourage people to take shelter inside and seek further information,” said Ulrich.

“We [Linn County Emergency Management Agency] also encourage residents to sign up for Alert Iowa, the State of Iowa’s official emergency notification system,” he added.  

Through Alert Iowa, local officials use a single, statewide notification system that provides local control of how and when to disseminate emergency and public safety messages to residents. Residents can learn more about the system and sign up for alerts on the Iowa Department of Homeland Security website –

Ulrich said he wanted to emphasize, “When you hear the warning sirens don’t run outside to see what is going on, find out from your tv, local news source, radio or weather apps. Be safe.”

“Remember that severe weather can happen anytime here in Iowa,” said Ulrich.

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