Severe weather watch: Tornado warning issued for Johnson County

The National Weather Service has issued tornado warnings in Johnson County, warning of confirmed observed tornadoes bringing thunderstorms and hail to the area Friday afternoon.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on March 12, 2020.

DI Staff

Multiple tornadoes passed near the Iowa City area on Friday afternoon, causing damage in parts of Coralville and Solon and leaving more than 2,000 customers in the area without power, according to MidAmerican Energy. A tornado watch remains in effect for Johnson County until 8 p.m., while a wind advisory remains in effect until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The tornadoes, which prompted sirens in downtown Iowa City for more than an hour, brought dark clouds, rain, and spots of hail to the area before giving way to partly cloudy skies and windy conditions.

Weather forecasts postponed an Iowa softball game and cancelled a watch party for the Hawkeyes’ Final Four game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Live Updates

6:00 p.m.

The National Weather Service’s severe thunderstorm warning for Johnson County has expired.

5:51 p.m.

The number of outages has climbed to 2,238 in the Iowa City metro area, according to MidAmerican Energy.

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Johnson County until 6 p.m. The tornado warning for the area expired at 5:45 p.m.

Photos and videos of damage have hit social media as winds have stayed strong in Iowa City.

5:39 p.m.

The Iowa City Public Safety Department tweeted that Highway 6 is currently closed due to downed power lines.

According to MidAmerican Energy, around 1,700 customers are without power as of 5:35 p.m.

5:25 p.m.

The sky has brightened considerably in Iowa City, but sirens have sounded again.

5:16 p.m.

A Hawk Alert warned that tornado warnings are still in effect for Johnson County until 5:45 p.m. Hail has stopped completely and rain has slowed greatly in downtown Iowa City.

4:59 p.m. 

Pockets of hail and a heavy rain have began to fall in Iowa City. A second observed tornado has been spotted just outside of the east side of Iowa City, moving northeast away from town and drawing a second tornado warning from the National Weather Service.

4:30 p.m.

The University of Iowa sent a second Hawk Alert Friday at 4:28 p.m. that the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for northwest Johnson County until 5:15 p.m. Residents should seek immediate shelter.

4:15 p.m.

The UI sent a Hawk Alert Friday at 4:06 p.m. that the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for nouthwest Johnson County until 4:45 p.m. The alert told the UI community to seek immediate shelter.

The UI also temporarily suspended Cambus transit services because of the tornado warning.

Sirens began to sound shortly after the tornado warning and persisted for nearly an hour.

The National Weather Service and the University of Iowa are warning Iowa residents and students of potential tornadoes, thunderstorms, and hail Friday afternoon.

UI Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Angie Reams sent an email to the university community Thursday warning students of the threat of severe storms coming Friday.

“Because this is the first severe weather event of the year, we wanted to remind you that you are encouraged to use good judgment, avoid traveling during active weather warnings, and be mindful of your surroundings,” Reams wrote.

She advised students to stay indoors, watch for Hawk Alerts, and keep track of the weather by checking the local news. She also wrote that a Hawk Alert would be issued when there is a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning.

A similar email was sent by UI Housing and Dining, again telling students to stay safe and alert of the weather conditions.

Javier Oyarzun, a shift supervisor at Lenoch and Cilek Ace Hardware on 600 N. Dodge St., said customers have been buying flashlights and batteries on Friday to prepare for the storm.

“That’s just about everything we’ve sold today,” Oyarzun said. “It’s pretty normal before storms. A lot of the time we will see people pick up those essentials and those little radios just ready to hunker down for the storm.”

According to the National Weather Service, severe thunderstorms are expected throughout Friday afternoon and evening, and continuing through part of Saturday. 

Severe thunderstorms are expected to move from the southwest to the northeast at speeds of 60 mph.

On its Twitter account, the NWS Quad Cities posted that a tornado watch was in effect for parts of Iowa, including Johnson County, until 8 p.m. on Friday.

The UI Cambus Twitter account wrote that riders should be aware of the weather conditions, and have notifications on for the Transit app. 

According to a page about Cambus’ severe weather policy, the service will continue to run unless sirens are sounded, at which point it will stop operations until the sirens have expired.

On Thursday, an email from Iowa Athletics was sent to students alerting them to some events being canceled or rescheduled. The Iowa Tennis vs. Purdue and Iowa Baseball vs. Maryland games were moved to a different time on Friday, with the women’s basketball Final Four watch party canceled, and the Iowa Softball vs. Northwestern game moved to the weekend.

Ryan Hansen, Sabine Martin, and Alejandro Rojas contributed to this report.