116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Two Iowa U.S. representatives are still waiting for information about what caused a delay in National Weather Service tornado warnings reaching the public when tornadoes swept across Iowa earlier this month.
First District Rep. Ashley Hinson and 3rd District Rep. Cindy Axne are asking the weather service for an explanation of a communications system malfunction that led to delays in critical alerts to the public March 5. Some warnings didn’t reach the public until nine minutes after they were issued.
As a former news reporter, “I covered severe storms, I saw firsthand how important public safety alerts are in these situations,” Hinson, a Marion Republican, told reporters Friday. “A minute can make all the difference here, every minute counts when it comes to saving lives, preventing injury, and also to mitigating property damage.”
So she teamed with Axne, a Des Moines Democrat, to seek answers about the delays in alerting the public to the tornadoes, which killed seven people. The agency has blamed technical issue in its Dallas-Fort Worth office.
“Unfortunately, severe weather is common in Iowa, and our constituents rely on the National Weather Service to provide prompt and accurate weather alerts to know when to seek shelter and take other potentially lifesaving precautions,” they wrote in a letter to the agency’s acting director.
It wasn’t the first time similar malfunctions have been reported, the congresswomen wrote, citing several examples.
“We cannot allow Iowans to be in danger because of technical problems that continue to go unaddressed,” they stated.
Noting that it’s severe weather season in Iowa, Hinson said she wants answers “sooner rather than later … to make sure we are finding out exactly where the breakdowns happen in the communication on their end.” Then, she said, Congress can develop proposals to address the problem.
In the meantime, Hinson said she is working with Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office on assessments to determine whether the damage meets thresholds for federal disaster relief. Hinson said she’s also been in contact with mayors and local emergency management directors.
Reynolds has issued a state disaster proclamation for Adair, Benton, Decatur, Jasper, Lucas, Madison, Polk, Tama, Warren and Wayne counties. That allows state resources to be utilized to recover from the storms.
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