Sirens were activated throughout the Dallas County area on Tuesday, May 26 as a tornado formed and touched down just south of Hickman Road in Waukee. The tornado was later classified as an EF-0 by the National Weather Service on Wednesday, May 27.
Waukee Shottenkirk Chevrolet Sales Consultant Mario Sciorrotta described the tornado as coming out of nowhere with the wind picking up harder and harder.
“First and foremost everybody made it out of it very safe,” Sciorrotta said. “Right in front of our dealership that tornado came straight down and touched down and ripped right through our dealership parking lot. There was so much pressure and it was such a violent condition outside that our ears were popping inside the dealership.”
Dallas County Emergency Management Coordinator AJ Seely said that after the tornado touched down near Shottenkirk Chevrolet, it then remained on or near the ground while continuing northwest for approximately half a mile. Quad Graphics and some unoccupied townhouses in Stratford Crossing also experienced some damage, with spotters able to track continuous rotation all the way to the northern county line.
“Fortunately, there have been no reported injuries associated with this storm,” Seely said. “The damage ranged from broken windows in cars, to a few broken windows in structures, non-structural commercial roofing damage and also included tearing of a small section of an unoccupied residential roof in Stratford Crossing.”
Sciorrotta also said that the pressure from the tornado ruptured windows in some of the vehicles at Shottenkirk Chevrolet as well as ripped up parts of the touchless car wash. In addition, the tornado caused damage to light poles, shredded some trees on the property and folded street signs in half.
“We were very fortunate to suffer minimal damage in this extraordinary weather condition,” Sciorrotta said. “We were all going about our daily routine as I was in the middle of a car purchase with my customer. Although we didn’t have much notification, really none at all, our owner Doug DeYarman and General Manager Paul DeYarman acted quick.”
According to the Waukee Fire Chief, Clint Robinson, the sirens were activated within two minutes of the first 911 call, and the entire event from the first call to the time the tornado was out of Waukee city limits was approximately 5-7 minutes.
“[It] demonstrates how fast weather can change,” Robinson said, “The best strategy is having a plan in place before the storm and it’s critical that the plan has been communicated and practiced. This is true for family and business alike.”
Today, community members and businesses can access multiple avenues to receive tornado warnings and notifications, such as local media outlets, weather radios and Smartphone applications. Dallas County Emergency Management also hosts a free program called AlertIowa, where users can sign up and select which area and type of alerts they would like to receive.
“Severe weather in Iowa can change rapidly. We want to ensure that all have a source, or two, to receive alerts in a timely fashion,” Seely said. “We’ve found a common misconception about outdoor warning sirens, tornado sirens, throughout our community as well. They’re not intended to be heard or relied upon indoors. This further stresses the importance of having a reliable method to receive alerts.”