Severe Weather

Union Drive with heavy snow

Watches and Warnings
Cold Weather
Evacuation Procedures

In Iowa, the possibility of severe weather is a real concern. While some think it is impossible to be prepared for these unexpected events, the goal of the Department of Residence is to inform residents of weather hazards that typically affect ISU and to encourage students to plan ahead and know what to do during different weather emergencies.

For more comprehensive information about the University's commitment to Severe Weather preparedness, please visit the ISU Environmental Health and Safety Web site.

Watches and Warnings

Weather Service personnel use information from weather radar, spotters and other sources to issue Watches and Warnings regarding pending weather situations.

  • A WATCH is issued when conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop.
  • A WARNING is issued for areas where severe weather is present or imminent.
  • A TORNADO WARNING means that a tornado has been seen or detected by radar and may be approaching.

The National Weather Service and local radio and television stations will announce watches and warnings about severe weather. One local channel to watch is KCCI (channel 8 - CBS).

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Cold Weather

Mid-west winters can be tough! Snow, ice and wind combine to create extremely cold temperatures, often accompanying winter storms. To keep yourself safe, follow these cold weather tips.

  • Stay indoors as much as possible. If you do go outside, try to make trips as brief as possible. One tip is to travel inside classroom buildings to stay warm.
  • Be Cautious About Travel. Don't be on the roads if you don't absolutely have to.
  • Dress appropriately before going outdoors. The temperature doesn't have to be below zero for you to experience cold emergencies such as hypothermia and frostbite. You should always wear:
    • A hat! Most of your body heat is lost through your head.
    • Mittens. Mittens are warmer than gloves.
    • A scarf or knit mask to cover your mouth. Breathing in cold air can irritate your lungs.
    • A water-resistant coat with sleeves that are snug at the wrist.
    • Waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry and to maintain your footing in ice and snow.

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Spring in the mid-west brings with it the potential of flooding, both from melting snow and from spring rains. Parts of the Ames community are considered to be flood plains. That is, flat land adjacent to a stream or river that experiences occasional or periodic flooding. According to The National Weather Service, more accidents occur each year due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard. Over 50% of flood related accidents occur when people underestimate the force and power of water and they and/or their vehicles are swept downstream. Of these, many are preventable if you follow these safety tips:

  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding.
  • Avoid areas already flooded. Never attempt to cross water flowing through streams, storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts. Flowing water six inches deep can knock you off your feet.
  • Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways. If you come upon flood waters, stop, turn around, and go another way. Climb to higher ground.
  • Do not park your vehicle along streams, particularly during threatening conditions.

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ISU is cyclone country in more ways than one! Tornadoes usually occur in the spring and summer (generally March through September) and are often preceded by severe thunderstorms with frequent lightning, heavy rain and hail. With winds of up to 300 miles per hour, tornadoes can sweep through an area, causing serious damage, in a matter of minutes.

If a Tornado Watch is issued, you should:

  • Review emergency plans.
  • Be alert for changing conditions and these danger signs: power failure, roaring / train-like noise, strong winds or funnel clouds.
  • Be prepared to act.

If a Tornado Warning is issued and/or the tornado sirens are activated, all individuals on-campus should proceed to the nearest designated tornado shelter. Shelter areas depend on your location at the time of the tornado warning.

If you are inside:

  • Stay in that building! Do not go outside.
  • Proceed to the nearest designated shelter area in the building by the quickest route.
  • Move quickly but in an orderly manner so that all may arrive safely.
  • Take a seat in the shelter area (if seats are not available, calmly remain standing).
  • If you have a portable weather alert radio, try to bring it to the shelter.

If you are outside:

  • Move at right angles to the tornado.
  • Immediately enter the nearest building.
  • If there is no time to escape or find shelter, lie flat in a ditch or depression, avoiding areas subject to rapid water accumulation or flooding in heavy rains.

Areas/places to avoid:

  • All outside walls, elevators and windows of buildings.
  • Any low-lying area that could flood.
  • Vehicles---do not use for shelter.
  • Building areas with a large roof span.

Remain sheltered until the tornado warning is over. There is no "all clear" signal given; this information will be provided by listening to a radio or TV station, or by contacting the ISU Department of Public Safety (515-294-4428).

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Severe Weather Locations by Area

Wallace Hall: The basement hallway and area between the elevators. Avoid windows and exterior doors.

Wilson Hall: The basement hallway and area between the elevators. Avoid windows and exterior doors.

WW Commons: Use the south stairwell and proceed to the basement interior hallway and storage area.

UDCC: The main hall behind the restrooms back to the west stairwell and inside the restrooms and the Food Service hallway, all the way back to the kitchens. The hallway between Printing Services and the Mail Room

*In the event the building is at maximum capacity all occupants may not be able to fit inside these areas. Additional safe zones include the second floor food service interior hallway and the west stairwell. Shelter overflow should move up the west stairs to these locations

Friley Hall: The large first floor study room A196 and the internal hallways on first floor in Dodds and Stange houses. Avoid windows and exterior doors. 

Helser: The first floor interior hallway. Avoid windows and exterior doors. All occupants need to be aware they need to make room for all residents of the building to fit into these hallways. Occupants should avoid the areas near dens as they have a lot of glass with windows to the outside.

Martin: The first floor interior hallway. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.

Eaton: The first floor interior hallway. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.

Birch-Welch-Roberts: The first floor interior hallway. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.

Barton-Lyon-Freeman: The first floor interior hallway. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.

Buchanan: The first floor interior hallway and recreation room area. Avoid areas near exterior doors and windows.

Linden: The lower Devitt House basement area that includes the hallway, student lounge and art and design room. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.

Oak-Elm: The first floor interior hallway and basement Conversations Dining area Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.  

Maple-Willow-Larch:  The first and second floor interior hallways and bathrooms. Occupants should avoid the areas near the lounges and dens as they have a lot of glass with windows to the outside. DO NOT go to the Ground or Mezzanine floors as they have exterior glass windows nearly their entire length. As the first floor hallway fills up residents need to begin filing into the second floor hallway.

MWL Commons: The Ground Floor hallway and Seasons Dining Center area. Avoid the north area of the dining room as there are many windows.  Move into the interior rooms of these areas to insure room for all seeking shelter.

Frederiksen Court: The first floor interior hallway between the elevators. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.

University Village: All occupants need to seek shelter in the lowest level of their building, the safest place being under the staircase and in the closet. Avoid the areas near exterior doors and windows.  Residents in buildings 104,116,133,142 should seek shelter in the lower-level apartments below them.

Schilletter Village: The basement storage and laundry area of their building.

Evacuation Stickers

A bright orange Fire/Emergency/Tornado Procedure sticker has been placed on the backs of all student room doors in the Residence Halls, Frederiksen Court and Schilletter / University Village DO NOT remove or deface these stickers.

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