Iowa senators introduce TORNADO Act to improve warnings and severe weather forecasting

The legislation comes nearly two weeks after deadly tornadoes swept across Iowa
The legislation comes nearly two weeks after deadly tornadoes swept across Iowa
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 3:54 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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QUAD CITIES, IA (KWQC) - It’s been nearly two weeks since a tornado outbreak killed seven people in Iowa.

Now, two Iowa lawmakers have introduced legislation to improve weather warnings and the forecasting and understanding of tornadoes.

The bill was introduced earlier this week by Iowa senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.

It’s called the TORNADO Act. TORNADO is an acronym standing for “Tornado Observations Research and Notification Assessment for Development of Operations.”

The legislation would require NOAA to review the technical problems that may have delayed life-saving alerts.

The National Weather Service confirmed technical issues led to a delay in getting tornado warnings to people affected during the Iowa tornado outbreak on March 5.

This included a seven minute delay for the Tornado Warning issued in Winterset, Iowa. The tornado, rated EF-4 with estimated peak winds of 170 mph, killed 6 people. Another was killed in Chariton, IA.

“We hope to upgrade some things within the National Weather Service and NOAA. We would hope to set up a special office to make sure that things are working properly. We expect that where there’s equipment problems that better equipment will be either maintained or improved,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) Iowa.

“We just really need to find out what we can do better to shorten the amount of time when emergency alerts go out. If that is possible, we want to make sure we give every Iowan and every American all those extra seconds, and that may make a difference,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R) Iowa.

Senators Grassley and Ernst also encourage NOAA to look at the tornado rating system, the Enhanced Fujita Scale, to determine if there needs to be updates to the system that has been in place since 2007.

Here are the bullet points about the purpose of the TORNADO Act:

-Establish a Hazard Risk Communication Office to simplify and improve communication of alerts

-Establish a pilot program to test the effectiveness of implementing new techniques for hazardous weather communication

-Require NOAA to prepare and submit an action plan for the national implementation of high-resolution probabilistic guidance for tornado forecasting and prediction

-Encourage NOAA to evaluate the current tornado rating system and make updates

-Require NOAA to coordinate with appropriate entities when conducting post-storm assessments to optimize data collection, sharing and integration

TV6 reached out to the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency for reaction to the bill.

Emergency Management Coordinator, Chance Kness, said the agency reviews the response after every natural disaster and work closely with the National Weather Service on how they can better coordinate and respond after an event.

Kness says he supports any way to improve the goal of helping people before, during and after a disaster.

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