Severe Weather

What to Do When Severe Weather Threatens

A tornado warning or thunderstorm warning will be issued by the National Weather Service when severe weather has been sighted or indicated by radar.

People close to the storm should take shelter immediately and remain there until the danger has passed. If you're further away, be prepared to take cover if threatening conditions are sighted.

  • In Linn County, the outdoor warning sirens are sounded for tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings with 70 mph winds or greater; or golf ball size hail or larger.
  • To maintain consistency and avoid confusion, Kirkwood follows the above criteria when sending emergency alerts in addition to sending alerts for tornado warnings.
  • For severe thunderstorm warnings, we will issue Kirkwood Alerts for warnings with 70mph winds or greater, and/or golf ball size hail or larger.

To learn more, call Public Safety at 319-398-7777

It is the responsibility of all faculty and staff to be familiar with current emergency procedures and to direct/instruct all students, guests, and others of the procedures and of the suggested shelter areas.

Individuals should seek shelter in building interiors preferably on lower levels, and use areas such as hallways, or rooms without windows, and with doors that close. Avoid windows or areas with large amounts of glass, and large open areas such as atriums, gymnasiums, lobbies.

Daytime Hours

  1. Regional or County Centers, and other campus sites are responsible to monitor weather conditions, and in severe weather take shelter as outlined in other sections of these procedures.
  2. Facilities and Public Safety will monitor weather conditions. Watches or warnings, or any expected severe conditions will be reported to the Vice President of Facilities and Security, or his/her designee. In the event of a warning, the President’s Office will also be notified.
  3. In the event that weather conditions deteriorate, the Vice President of Facilities and Public Safety, or his/her designee, will determine the need for a "take shelter" warning. The President's Office will be notified. Students, faculty, and staff will be notified via Kirkwood Alert. The President's Office will notify Cabinet members.
  4. Administrative offices shall ensure that all personnel in their areas have been notified. It is critical that every room, on every floor, of every building be notified of threatening weather conditions.
  5. Be polite but firm when directing others to shelter. If a person refuses to shelter, advise the individual they are putting themselves at risk, and go to shelter yourself.
  6. When a thunderstorm warning is issued by the National Weather Service, Facilities and Public Safety will notify department(s) in wooden frame structures if situation is considered dangerous for occupants to remain.

Evenings and Weekends

  1. During evening and weekend hours, each Regional or County Center and other campus sites are independently responsible to monitor weather conditions and in severe weather take shelter as outlined in other sections of these procedures.
  2. On main campus, Facilities and Public Safety will monitor weather conditions.
  3. In the event a Facilities administrator is not available, Public Safety and on-duty custodial staff shall be responsible for monitoring weather conditions and performing the tasks below.
  4. Upon notification of a weather watch, Facilities and Public Safety will notify the Athletic Complex to inform them of the potential for severe weather.
  5. If the path and severity of the storm warrants, the custodians will be informed through the Facilities administrator, of the situation and be advised to be alert for further information and instructions.
  6. The Facilities administrator will make the determination for a "take shelter" warning. The warning will be relayed through Kirkwood Alert and the two-way radio.
  7. Warnings shall be prioritized to Auto Collision, Auto Technology, the athletic complex, and all buildings in the farm area. The warning shall be communicated by all available means. Students, staff and faculty in these buildings should move into designated shelter areas during both a tornado and severe thunderstorm warning. If time or weather makes it unsafe to move people who are in these buildings, they should be instructed to seek shelter in building interiors, away from windows, and avoid large open areas.
  8. Faculty, who teach in the evening and weekends, should be aware of potentially severe weather and take responsibility for directing their students to shelter. This is especially important of those involved in outdoor programs.

Severe Weather Awareness Week

March 27 – 31, 2023

Each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week has been given its own topic. Learn more below.


Severe Thunderstorms – Severe thunderstorms are officially defined as storms that are capable of producing hail that is an inch or larger or wind gusts over 58 mph. Hail this size can damage property such as plants, roofs, and vehicles. Wind this strong is able to break off large branches, knock over trees, or cause structural damage to trees. Some severe thunderstorms can produce hail larger than softballs or winds over 100 mph, so always pay attention to the weather so you know when severe storms are possible. Thunderstorms also produce tornadoes and dangerous lightning and heavy rains can lead to flash flooding. 


Receiving Warning Information – With technology today, there are many ways to be alerted to weather warnings and watches. The most important point is to be intentional and proactive:

  • Have multiples ways to receive information
  • Know which hazards alert on the various systems
  • Choose the alert methods that work best for you in different situations (at home, at work, and out in the community)
  • React quickly when the hazard occurs
  • And, above all, have a plan


Tornadoes – A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down toward the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time throughout the year. Although tornadoes are most common in the Central Plains and southeastern United States, they have been reported in all 50 states.


Family Preparedness – Disasters of all kinds disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property. If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will work to assist you, but you need to be ready as well. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere. Being prepared for a disaster can reduce the fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany them.

There are five key elements to a disaster plan:

  1. Learn about possible hazards in your area and become familiar with your community’s disaster response plan.
  2. Talk to your family about what to do in the event of an emergency. Pick two locations where you will meet (one close to your home and another removed from your neighborhood) if you are separated and unable to return to your home.
  3. Develop a communications plan to ensure that your family will be able to stay in contact if separated during a disaster. Make sure to consider other possible means in case cell phones are out.
  4. Create disaster kits for your home, office, and car.
  5. Practice your plan!


Flash Floods – Flash flooding, one of the leading thunderstorm killers, is a rapid rise in small creeks and waterways, usually from excessive rains. Flash flooding can also occur with ice jams on rivers or if a dam fails.

When flash flooding is observed, or a warning is issued for your area, take action to protect yourself and property:

  • Move to high ground and avoid flood prone areas
  • Never drive into flood waters
  • Obey all road closure or high-water signs – find alternative routes, if needed
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is more difficult to spot flash flooding


Here are some additional resources and definitions:

The Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWO) includes any potential weather hazard out to seven (7) days. It is used for planning purposes and includes a short description of what the weather threat is, when it is expected, and whether storm spotter activation will be needed. The HWO is issued daily around 5:00 a.m., and updated during the day as needed. It is also broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio at the top and bottom of every hour.

Get an explanation of outlook categories used by the Storm Prediction Center here.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) when there is a potential for severe thunderstorms to form or move into the area. A severe thunderstorm consists of wind gusts of 58 mph or higher, or 1" diameter size hail or larger. Severe thunderstorms occasionally do produce tornadoes with little advance warning. A Watch is typically in effect for about 6 hours and covers a region of a state.

A Flash Flood Watch is issued when the potential for flash flooding exists. Usually these are issued when abundant, heavy rainfall is expected from thunderstorms, especially if the ground is already near saturation. Flash Flood Watches are sometimes issued if there is a possibility of a dam failure as well.

A Tornado Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) when there is potential for severe thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes. Thunderstorms may be more severe and the atmosphere is favorable for rotation within thunderstorms and tornado development. A Watch is typically in effect for about 6 hours and covers a region of a state.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when a thunderstorm is or is expected to produce wind gusts of 58 mph or higher, or 1" diameter size hail or larger. In this case, either severe weather has been reported or the thunderstorm looks severe based on Doppler Radar. The warning is typically in effect for 30 to 60 minutes and usually covers a county.

A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a rapid rise in small creeks and streams is expected. Flash Flooding or mudslides are expected or occurring. The warning is typically in effect for 2 to 3 hours and covers a county.

A Tornado Warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm is or is expected to produce a tornado. In this case, either a tornado has been spotted or rotation is being detected within the thunderstorm on Doppler Radar. The warning is typically in effect for 30 to 60 minutes and usually covers a county. Tornado Warnings are issued infrequently and should be taken very seriously.


Visit Public Safety.

Kirkwood Public Safety