Severe Weather Warnings: The process from start to finish

The National Weather Service has a mission: to protect life and property.

It was established back in 1870 by Congress with those goals in mind. Whenever the threat of severe weather develops, the Quad Cities forecast office gears up.

Donna Dubberke, the Warning Coordinator Meteorologist, NWS Quad Cities points out, "We're always here looking at the weather every day. So when we see that there's a chance for severe weather the first thing we do is look at our staffing and make sure that we're going to have enough people to handle that event. Try and understand the nature of it. Is it going to be really strong? Is it going to last for a long time? Is it going to be wide-spread? To make ourselves adjust to what we're going to need to do on our end."

Warnings are issued by local offices. Every county in the United States is assigned to a local office to provide warnings for that county.

When a storm gains strength, the National Weather Service team is ready. But what makes a thunderstorm severe?

"When they see that a storm reaches a level that it's stronger than the typical storm, for instance, for us that would be hail that's a quarter size or larger, winds, say, 60 MPH or greater, maybe producing a tornado, those kinds of things. They see that it's capable of doing that. They would then issue a warning," Dubberke explained.

During severe weather, the Doppler radar located at the National Weather Service office in the Quad Cities serves as one more tool allowing the meteorologists to look inside the storms.

"Using Doppler radar, we monitor the low level, but we take scans all the way up through the whole volume of the thunderstorm so we can see the whole thing, and that's the most important feature of Doppler radar," Dubberke said.

The Quad Cities office covers the northern most counties in the KHQA viewing area including Lee County, Iowa; Scotland and Clark counties in Missouri and Hancock and McDonough counties in Illinois.

Ultimately, they say your own safety depends on the actions that you take to protect yourself.

"Is your life saved by the warning. Well, it's only saved if you choose to take the right action. So knowing what to do, being ready to do it, and then doing when you need to, that ultimately falls on every individual," Dubberke said.

And that's the time the KHQA 7 Storm Team springs into action. Our weather lab takes the information from the National Weather Service and puts that warning on the air.

"Broadcast media play a huge role because they can update very frequently and explain and be able to show the picture of what's happening and then explain it, and I think that's just tremendous," Dubberke also said. "They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think that's never more true than during severe weather."

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is March 2-8 in Illinois and Missouri this year. Illinois will hold a tornado drill on Wednesday, March 5 at 10 a.m. In Missouri, a tornado drill will be held Tuesday, March 4 at 1:30 p.m.

Iowa will host it's Severe Weather Preparedness Week from March 24-28 and a tornado drill will be held on Wednesday, March 26 at 10 a.m.

Do you want to be a certified Storm Spotter in 2014? Attend the National Weather Service Storm Spotters class at Quincy's John Wood Community College campus on Monday, March 3 at 6 p.m. The event is free and you'll have a chance to win your own storm shelter. Click here for more information and we hope to see you there!