Straight Line Winds Have Oskaloosa In Clean-Up Mode
Oskaloosa, Iowa – It had been in the forecast for days that the area was going to be threatened by severe weather. Sunday afternoon saw a line of strong and severe storms march their way across the state.
Jeff Zogg, with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, took a tour of the damage in Oskaloosa Monday morning. “Based on the damage we’ve seen, it looks like it’s straight line wind damage. We’re not seeing anything that would be consistent with tornado damage,” said Zogg. Max winds speeds were estimated to be between 70 to 80 mph.
“We’re just thankful no one was hurt,” Zogg said.
The wind damage Sunday is a good reminder that even straight line winds are capable of doing substantial damage.
The storm worked its way quickly into the county. At 3:06 p.m. we posted the Severe Storm Warning to our Facebook page. The warning indicated 60 mph wind gusts and potentially quarter size hail.
Some residents have voiced their concerns over no storm sirens being activated. The storm as it was warned didn’t meet the guidelines set out for storm siren activation. “It was simply a fact that the storm came up so quick, by the time we got the data from the National Weather Service we were trying to get people [storm spotters] in,” said Oskaloosa Fire Chief Mark Neff.
In a press release from last year, the Oskaloosa Fire Department shared what the criteria are for activating the outdoor alert sirens. The storm sirens are ultimately triggered from within the law center when alerted.
The Outdoor warning sirens shall be sounded for a:
A. Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service and/or
B. Tornado or funnel cloud reported by a trained spotter.
C. Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued by the National Weather Service or a report from a trained spotter that includes:
-Wind 70mph or greater (whole trees blown down) and/or golf ball sized hail or larger (1.75 inch diameter or greater)
Sirens are used to alert residents who are outdoors, Neff said. “The best thing for the inside would obviously be your NOAA weather radio,” Neff explained.
With the sudden rush of the storm, even the fire station was without power, and coordinating the effort to track calls took a step back in time. Firefighters used large paper tablets to track the commotion.
With power outages impacting the community, communications were a priority for Mahaska County Emergency Manager Jamey Robinson. To resolve the problem, Robinson had a mobile communications trailer delivered to the county from the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Department.
The fire department also responded to a fire at Nickel Back, or the former Indian Kan Kontry building after the power had been restored shortly after 9pm. A downed power-line sent electricity into the metal roof of the building, eventually causing damage inside the structure. Neff said that crews got the fire knocked down quickly.
Mahaska County Emergency Manager Jamey Robinson said that utilizing other methods of receiving severe weather alerts is a good idea. NOAA weather radios or even signing up for a free alert system from Mahaska County EMA that sends alerts directly to your mobile phone. You can text MCEMA to 888777 and you will be alerted to severe weather watches and warnings in your area.
The Mahaska West building on the Mahaska Health Partnership campus was damaged in dramatic fashion by the winds. Emergency management helped to coordinate with Oskaloosa Fire, New Sharon Fire, and CERT to help remove patient files and other valuable material from the building. The Mahaska West building is known to many local residents as the former Family Medical Clinic, but it now houses offices for: Home Health, Hospice, Public Health, Behavioral Health, Massage Therapy and Blue Zones.
Those offices are being transferred into the main hospital building.
There have been no reports of injury to anyone in the Oskaloosa area as a result of the storm.