Climate Change Means Increased Threats to Iowa Homes


No, you’re not crazy. It is literally raining cats and dogs these days in Iowa.

Welcome to what climate experts gravely predict is “the new normal.”

The Hawkeye State’s bummer of a fall has seen torrential rain pour down in buckets in most parts of Eastern Iowa. Dubuque has weathered a full 50 inches of rain this year – a full 20 inches more than its average through September. Iowa’s Key City tripled its average rain fall for October in the Halloween month’s first week.

People were only half-joking when they reported seeing Noah herding animals into an ark in the Port of Dubuque.

The water-logged fall follows a drenched spring that saw western Iowa towns swamped in floodwaters, downtown Davenport transformed into a river and the Mississippi River standing at flood stage or higher for a record 104 days in the Quad Cities. Des Moines Register research found the last 12 months in Iowa to be the state’s wettest 365-day period since official records began in 1895.

Meanwhile, the state’s flood damage bill for 2019 alone has already topped $2 billion and the meter is still running with more than two months left in the year.

Climate change is making Iowa a wetter place to live. Since the mid-1970s, Iowa’s annual precipitation has increased by 12 percent, according to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor James Boulter, author of the climate study “An Uncertain Future for Iowa: The Outlook for Iowa Communities and Flooding as Our Climate Changes.”

“Iowa’s statewide trend over the same period is still higher at 1.25 inches per decade – the largest increase across the U.S.,” Boulter writes. 

Unfortunately, there is no relief in sight. A recent alarming study by the Iowa Policy Project predicts the “trend of increasing hot, wet weather in the Upper Midwest will continue.” This, as Iowa Public Radio’s Kate Payne notes, will lead to an “increased risk of these kinds of damaging natural disasters.”

According to Boulter’s analysis, the Mississippi River Valley is predicted to see hydrological and atmospheric conditions that “may produce more historic-level floods.” Worse yet, Boulter predicts the devastating and costly floods of 1993 and 2008 may become “the new normal.”

This finding, Boulter says, should be of “great concern” to Iowans, particularly weary homeowners who’ve already lost homes or suffered substantial damage due to flooding.

“It’s a fairly chilling conclusion to draw,” Boulter said.

And Iowa homeowners have to prepare and be ready for the state’s wet new normal. If you live in a flood plain, home flood insurance is a must, not an option

“The projections are that more and bigger rainfalls are going to continue on a seasonal basis, especially in the spring,” United States Department of Agriculture Midwest Climate Hub Director Dennis Todey told the Register. 

For the forecast calls for many wet days in Iowa’s near future.

“The effects of climate change, in both rural and urban Iowa, are becoming increasingly clear,” Boulter writes.

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