How to obtain information about weather and road conditions

Learn about the hazards that can affect your community and learn how to get information about current weather and road conditions. Pay attention to the news. Local radio and television stations provide up-to-date weather information.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs)

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are short emergency messages from authorized federal, state, local, tribal and territorial public alerting authorities that can be broadcast from cell towers to any WEA‐enabled mobile device in a locally targeted area. WEAs can be sent by state and local public safety officials, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the President of the United States.

  • WEAs look like text messages but are designed to get your attention with a unique sound and vibration repeated twice.
  • WEAs are no more than 360 characters and include the type and time of the alert, any action you should take and the agency issuing the alert.
  • WEAs are not affected by network congestion and will not disrupt texts, calls or data sessions that are in progress.
  • You are not charged for receiving WEAs and there is no need to subscribe.

Emergency Alert System (EAS)

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that allows the president to address the nation within 10 minutes during a national emergency. State and local authorities may also use the system to deliver important emergency information such as weather information, imminent threats, AMBER alerts and local incident information targeted to specific areas.

NOAA Weather Radio

Investing in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio is another way to receive weather and other emergency alerts, and you can program them so that you receive only the alerts for your county or specific counties.

Alert Iowa Statewide Messaging System

Alert Iowa is the State of Iowa’s official emergency notification system. Through Alert Iowa, State and local officials are able to utilize a single, statewide notification system that provides local control of how and when to disseminate emergency and public safety messages to residents. Learn if your county is participating and sign up now to receive free alerts via text message, email, and/or voice message.

511 Information 

The Iowa Department of Transportation offers real-time information on current road conditions on their website or application.

Warning Sirens

A community warning siren is part of an outdoor, all-hazards siren system that is used to warn the general population of potential danger in a short amount of time.

What the Sirens Mean
  • The warning siren will be activated upon receipt of a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service
  • The warning siren will be activated with Severe Thunderstorm Warnings where forecasted or if actual wind speeds reach or exceed 70mph
What to Do When You Hear a Siren

If the sirens are activated – and it is not a monthly test – the public should see it as a signal to:

  • Seek shelter
  • Tune into radio or television to get the latest information, instructions & recommendations
Weather Siren stands in cornfield amongst ominous clouds

Types of Advisories, Watches and Warnings

The information provided here is courtesy of the National Weather Service (NWS). These are hazards that regularly affect the state of Iowa. For additional information, visit your local NWS website.


  • A flood watch is issued when current and developing conditions are such that there is a threat of flooding, but the occurrence is neither certain nor imminent.
  • A flood warning is issued when there is flooding along larger streams causing a serious threat to life or property. A flood warning will usually contain river stage (level) forecasts.
  • A flash flood watch indicates that flash flooding is possible in and close to the watch area. Those in the affected area are urged to be ready to take quick action if a flash flood warning is issued or flooding is observed.
  • A flash flood warning signifies a dangerous situation where rapid flooding of small rivers, streams, creeks, or urban areas is imminent or already occurring.


  • A heat advisory is issued within 12 hours of the onset of the following conditions: heat index of at least 105°F but less than 115°F for less than three hours per day, or nighttime lows above 80°F for two consecutive days.


  • A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.
  • A tornado warning means that a tornado is indicated by radar or has been sighted by storm spotters. The warning will include where the tornado is and what towns will be in its path.
  • A wind advisory is issued with sustained winds from 25 to 39 mph and/or gusts to 57 mph.

Severe Thunderstorms

  • A severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and close to the watch area.
  • A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when a thunderstorm produces hail 3/4 of an inch or larger in diameter and/or winds which equal or exceed 58 mph. Severe thunderstorms can result in the loss of life and/or property. Information in this warning includes: where the storm is, what towns will be affected, and the primary threat associated with the storm.

The NWS developed two new categories of damage threat for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. These tags and additional messaging are designed to promote immediate action, based on the threats.

  • The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75 inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a WEA on smartphones within the warned area.
  • The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75 inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a WEA.

Winter Weather

  • A winter storm watch indicates that severe winter weather may affect your area.
  • A winter storm warning indicates that severe winter weather conditions are definitely on the way or are already here.
  • A blizzard warning means that large amounts of falling or blowing snow and sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour are expected for several hours.
  • A blowing snow advisory is issued when wind-driven snow reduces surface visibility, possibly hampering travel.
  • A wind chill advisory is issued when the wind chill could be life threatening if action is not taken.
  • A wind chill warning is issued when the wind chill is life threatening.
  • A freezing rain/drizzle advisory is issued when freezing rain or freezing drizzle is forecast but a significant accumulation is not expected. However, even small amounts of freezing rain or freezing drizzle may cause significant travel problems.


Make a Plan

Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency is key. Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do.


Build a Kit

Your emergency supply kit should have everything you need to sustain you and your family for 3-5 days. Get a checklist you can use to put together your own kit.


Be Aware

Learn about the hazards that can affect your community and learn how to get information about current weather and road conditions.