Iowa Tornado Drill Today In 10 AM Hour

Tornado iStockSheldon, Iowa — This is Severe Weather Awareness Week In Iowa. Each day this week, the National Weather Service is focusing on a different severe weather topic.

Today’s topic is tornadoes. Because of that, there was a statewide tornado drill today. Outdoor warning sirens, weather radios, and other devices were activated today in the 10 AM hour.  Sioux County Emergency Management Director Nate Huizenga says everyone should participate and practice going to your place of safety to work out any possible problems with your plan.

Click or tap the play button above or this link to listen.

Huizenga says even individual people and families should practice tornado safety today, as we never know where we might be when a warning is issued. Tornadoes can happen any time of the day. National Weather Service Meteorologist and lead forecaster Chris Jansen with the Sioux Falls office helps dispel some myths people believe about tornado safety.

Click or tap the play button above or this link to listen.

The weather service says a tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air in contact with the ground. A visible cloud is not needed for a tornado to be in progress. Some tornadoes may not appear to extend to the ground but are causing considerable damage. Tornadoes take on various shapes and sizes, and most produce winds less than 120 mph. However, a few are capable of producing winds over 200 mph. Some tornadoes are very small and last for only a minute or so, while others can be a mile wide or larger and stay on the ground for over an hour.

In addition to the tornado watch which means conditions are right, stay alert — and the tornado warning which means take cover now — the weather service is now issuing a product called a “Tornado Emergency” It is not a new warning, but is used to highlight a confirmed tornado which is expected to be strong and violent. A Tornado Emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue.

The weather service also reminds you to listen to, or read the entire warning so you know what to expect, as a tornado warning is issued for everything from minor tornadoes all the way up to the largest, multiple vortex tornadoes.

If you are interested in learning more about severe weather and how you can better prepare yourself and family by recognizing some of the signs, you can attend one of the Severe Weather Awareness training sessions being held at Northwest Iowa Community College.  They are scheduled for April 13th and 14th.  For more information, you can call NCC at 800-352-4907, or in the local Sheldon calling area, you can call 324-5061.

To register for the Nixle service click here.

For more information, click here for the National Weather Service’s Tornado Safety Brochure.

For severe weather safety and preparedness information in Spanish, please click here (en Español).

Para obtener información sobre la preparación de mal tiempo, haga clic aquí. (en español)

Emergency Center Making Upgrades

Primghar, Iowa — The O’Brien County Emergency Center in Primghar is making some upgrades to its communication equipment and is also implementing a new system that will alert people of emergencies if they sign up to receive emails or text alerts.
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We talked with O’Brien County Emergency Management Director Anne Koontz. She tells us that the communication equipment upgrade means all 911 calls in O’Brien County are being forwarded to Sioux County’s emergency center. Sheriff Mike Anderson says there may be some delay on calls as well as some extra radio chatter during this time. Koontz tells us about the upgrades.

She says they did receive some assistance, so not all of the funds had to come from tax dollars.

Koontz says the upgrades are going to mean a change in this week’s statewide tornado drill in O’Brien County.

But she says in some ways, having the cities set off their sirens manually is a blessing in disguise.

She says that there’s a possibility that in a time of disaster the county wouldn’t be able to set off sirens, depending on how the disaster affects the infrastructure, so it’s a good idea to test manual operation.

In addition to the phone and radio upgrades, Koontz says O’Brien County is also rolling out a new service, called O’Brien Alert, also known as the Wireless Emergency Notification system, or WENS to keep citizens informed in the event of a disaster. She says you’ll be able to get alerts on email and over your cell phone.

Incidentally, IPAWS stands for Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems.

O’Brien Alert is part of Alert Iowa, which is a statewide mass notification and emergency messaging system. The system can be used by state and local authorities to quickly disseminate emergency information to residents in counties that utilize the system. The system is available, free of charge, to all counties. More than 80 percent of Iowa’s counties have now signed up to use the Alert Iowa system.

Alert Iowa will allow citizens to sign up for the types of alerts they would like to receive. Messages can be issued via land line or wireless phone, text messaging, email, FAX, TDD/TYY, and social media. Messages may contain photo, video and audio attachments to help subscribers better understand the situation at hand, or where to find additional information.

You can sign up at

If your browser or device cannot access the audio players above, here are the direct links to the audio sound bytes:

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State Team Formed To Assess Structures After Disasters

Des Moines, Iowa –The Iowa Fire Marshal Division has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to form a new team to ensure structures are safe after being hit by severe weather, and now they’re fine tuning the details.

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File photo of June 2014 flooding in Rock Valley


The Iowa Building Safety Assessment and Failure Evaluation Team or “B-SAFE Team” was formed in 2014 by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s State Fire Marshal Division, who will also manage the team.

The B-SAFE Team is comprised of state employees, volunteer engineers and architects from various professional organizations, including:

  • American Institute of Architects – Iowa Chapter
  • Iowa Engineering Society/ American Council of Engineering Companies
  • Structural Engineers Association of Iowa
  • Iowa Association of Building Officials

The team will provide building inspections to ensure structures are safe for occupancy following large-scale disasters, such as tornadoes or floods.  The team will also provide any technical resources to local communities regarding building inspections and building safety during times of disaster and also during the recovery and rebuilding processes.

The B-SAFE Team has been designated as a state disaster specialty team, which allows communities to utilize this team as a state resource in times of disaster by contacting their county emergency manager.

Officials say this partnership showcases a unique effort of the private sector aiding the public sector in times of disaster.

Know About Weather Watches And Warnings

radio kiwaSheldon, Iowa — This is Severe Weather Awareness Week In Iowa. Each day this week, the National Weather Service Is focusing on a different severe weather topic. Today’s topic is warning reception.

One of the most important precautions you can take to protect yourself and your family from severe weather is to remain weather aware. Being weather aware means you are informed of the weather forecast and alert to the potential hazards. Knowing what to do and where to go when watches and warnings are issued is key to your safety, but a watch or warning is only helpful if you are aware of them. How do you receive information about watches and warnings? With today’s technology there are many different ways to receive this information but it is up to you to remain weather aware and actively listen for watches and warnings! A weather radio can be programmed to alert you about watches and warnings, but it’s still up to you to remain weather aware in case the radio or transmitter would fail.

National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Todd Heitkamp, from the Sioux Falls Forecast Office tells us about the ways you can receive weather watches and warnings.

Click or tap the play button above or this link to listen.

Heitkamp says watches and warnings are not all the same.  One severe thunderstorm warning may warn about large hail and flooding, while another one may warn more about dangerous lightning.  A tornado warning may warn about a small tornado or a very large one.  He says that’s why it’s important to listen to what’s being said, and to act on the information.

Click or tap the play button above or this link to listen.

A watch is issued to give advance notice when conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather, whether it is severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, or flash flooding. When a watch is issued for your area, it is time to take precautions and make sure you are prepared should bad weather strike.

Warnings are issued when severe weather is occurring or imminent. When a warning is issued for your area, you should take action immediately to protect your life and your property.

For more information, click here for the National Weather Service’s Warning Reception Brochure.

For severe weather safety and preparedness information in Spanish, please click here (en Español).

Para obtener información sobre la preparación de mal tiempo, haga clic aquí. (en español)

Multiple Injuries In Highway 60 Accident

UPDATE: The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has released some more information about victims in Monday morning’s accident on Highway 60.
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They say that 64-year-old Alan VanBeek of Orange City, who was the driver of the Orkin pickup was treated, and was then transferred to Sioux Falls with life-threatening injuries.

They report that there were five victims in the 2006 Volkswagen.

One victim from the VW was treated, and then was transferred to Sioux Falls for a fractured arm and remains under their care. Another victim from the VW was treated, transferred to Sioux Falls, and was released there.

Three victims from the VW were treated and released locally.

Original Story:

Sibley, Iowa — Multiple people were injured in an accident near Sibley on Monday morning.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office reports that 64-year-old Alan VanBeek of Orange City was driving a 2011 Ford Ranger, owned by Orkin LLC, eastbound on 210th Street, four miles south of Sibley. Witnesses advised that the Ford Ranger failed to stop at the stop sign at Highway 60. The Sheriff’s Office reports that 32-year-old Erick H Chavez Gallegos, of Worthington, MN, was driving a 2006 Volkswagen, owned by Dylan Malvin.

The Volkswagen hit the Ford Ranger broadside on Highway 60.

There were multiple people injured. The Sheriff’s Office says the severity of injuries is unknown.

The Ford Ranger sustained $5000 damage and the Volkswagen had $8000 damage.

The Sibley Ambulance, Sibley Fire & Rescue crews, Ashton Ambulance crew, Ashton Fire & Rescue personnel, Little Rock Ambulance crew, and George EMS assisted at the scene.

Four Charged With Felony Drug Offenses

Spencer, Iowa — Four people were charged with felony drug offenses after Spencer Police carried out a search warrant on Saturday.

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The Spencer Police Department reports that during the search of an apartment on Third Street on Saturday, March 21st, 2015, officers seized approximately 41 grams of marijuana, 7.2 ounces of hashish oil, a large amount of currency, and numerous items of drug paraphernalia. Police say the investigation revealed other items consistent with the active distribution of marijuana and the manufacturing of hashish oil.

As a result , 18 year-olds Devin Hopper and Tyrell Gibson, 21-year-old Austin Muilenburg, and 23-year-old Jared Nissen, all of Spencer were all charged with

  • Possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver (Class D felony)
  • Manufacturing hashish oil (Class D felony)
  • Violation of drug tax stamp (Class D felony)
  • Gathering where controlled substances are unlawfully used (Serious misdemeanor)
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (Simple misdemeanor)

Jared Nissen was charged with one additional count of Interference with Official Acts, a Simple Misdemeanor.

All were subsequently transported and booked into the Clay County Jail.