On May 3, 1999, a destructive F5 tornado hit the area of Oklahoma City, OK. The National Weather Service had a Tornado Warning in effect, but they felt that it was not enough to catch the attention of people in the warning area. That is when the Tornado Emergency came to exist.

The National Weather Service defines a Tornado Emergency as:

An exceedingly rare tornado warning issued when there is a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from an imminent or ongoing tornado. This tornado warning is reserved for situations when a reliable source confirms a tornado, or there is clear radar evidence of the existence of a damaging tornado, such as the observation of debris.

As of May 2021, there have been 191 tornado emergencies issued in the United States and just two in Iowa; an over 24-mile path length EF-4 on October 4, 2013, in Cherokee (issued by the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota) and the over 8-miles-long EF-3 on July 19, 2018, in Marshalltown, resulting in nearly two dozen injuries.

Why wasn’t a Tornado Emergency issued during the EF-5 that hit Parkersburg and New Hartford in 2008? According to the National Weather Service’s Assessment of that tornado; The usage of “Tornado Emergency” was discussed during the middle of the Parkersburg tornado but was not exacted or included in products.

As for Tornado Warnings, 35 were issued across the state in 2020 but only three so far in 2021. The yearly average of tornado warnings across the state is 79. (1986-2020)

The most Tornado Warnings issued in Iowa in a single year was in 2008 when 242 were issued.

LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.


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