Storm Scares

For the first time at Liberty, school was let out early because of a tornado…twice in two weeks.


Molly Krogh

The EF2 tornado caused a lot of home destruction in Coralville and surrounding areas.

On March 31 and April 4, the Iowa City School District released all schools early due to the threat of severe weather. These threats caused the district to send kids home to stay safe from the storms. Usually “severe weather” in Iowa consists of snow or ice but the tornado was a new reason to send students home.  

Schools have a tornado plan implemented, and students participate in drills throughout the school year. Even with this in mind, the district decided to end the school day early so people could find safety in their own homes rather than at school. Since the storm was expected days before it actually hit, it gave students and families a chance to prepare for the storms. Mr. Shutt, social studies, has been teaching for 28 years, and has never had school cancellations for a tornado. He’s seen an upward trend in cancellations from severe weather. 

My hunch is that we may see more cancellations or early-outs because of the improved ability to forecast and because of the increased probabilities for extreme weather events due to climate change,” he said.

KCRG Meteorologist Jan Ryherd spoke about the early awareness of the incoming storm. 

“We typically focus a bit of extra time and attention on the first severe weather event of the season as people tend to be ‘caught off guard’ following the winter season. With the heightened danger of this event, I think we messaged even a bit more than a typical first event of the season,” Ryherd said.


Although tornadoes are most common in May and June, there is still a chance for the storms to form with warmth and moisture in the air in March and April. According to Ryherd, 5% occur in March and 12% in April. Because of the time of year and the severity of these spring storms, they gained more attention.

Leading up to it, there were some people who were nervous. Iowa has experienced rough winter storms, flooding, and destructive derechos, making people more vigilant towards the types of dangers with the weather. 

Ryherd shared how the higher the risk factor for a storm is, the more concern there is in the community.

“We had been talking about it for several days in advance…the SPC’s (Storm Prediction Center) moderate (level 4/5) and high (level 5/5) risks naturally make people pay more attention than a run of the mill severe weather day,” she said. 

Although some may become less cautious and even make some risky decisions before the storms, this one eventually drove people inside in their basements, especially with the high risks and warnings. 

Lauren Nelson, 10, lives in Coralville, which was closer to the eye of the storm. At first, she was not nervous, but then things became a little more real. 

After the tornado sirens went off for the fifth time, we looked out of the window and all of a sudden it got really bad quickly, so we all ran to the bathroom located in our basement,” said Nelson. 

Storms like these usually climax where most of the damage is done. 

“As we were sitting in the bathroom the storm had gotten really loud and our power went out…It was so loud at one point that we thought our windows were broken but it was really just the sound of hail, wind, and rain hitting the glass,” Nelson said. 

Luckily, Nelson and her family were all safe, but there was some destruction right near their house. 

“We immediately got in my sister’s car and drove around. Sure enough, less than two minutes away from us cars were flipped, houses were ruined, trees were blocking roads. We were all in complete shock over how close the tornado had gotten to us because we knew that there were possibilities of a tornado happening but we didn’t really think it would happen,” she said. 

The debris and destruction will take weeks for residents to recover from. (Lauren Nelson)

These storms can seem insignificant when you are not directly affected, but it is important to listen to the news and the warings to stay safe from this type of storm. 

Watches and warnings are always there for a reason, we always stress how important it is to hear them,” Ryherd urges. 

It is a good idea to make a house plan and make sure to have water and food in the basement or in a room with no windows. These types of things are for safety because as much as people want to believe they are invincible, they are not. 

It really just made all of us appreciate what we have because within that ten or so minutes of the storm going through our town we could have lost everything,” Nelson said. 

Ryherd reminds everyone of the reality of the situation. 

  “I think it is important for people to remember all storms- big EF-4 tornado, small rope tornado, damaging derecho, or general thunderstorm with lightning- carry the potential to be dangerous and life-threatening. Please listen to a trusted meteorologist who understands the weather in your area and is watching out for you and your town,” Ryherd said.

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