Will Your Home Be Ready When the Next Iowa Weather Disaster Strikes?

You don’t need to be a meteorologist to know Iowa weather is often unpredictable.

At times, it can feel like we all live in a snow globe filled with potentially hazardous weather, and Mother Nature is shaking the globe with everything she’s got.

We’d like to please not take a hailstorm with a chance of lightning, Mother Nature.

During these wildly unstable climate times, it can be blue skies, sunny and 80 degrees in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, then a full-scale derecho with flying trees can rain down on the City of Five Seasons come Monday, as we learned the hard way last August.

“It’s pretty clear that climate change is impacting Iowa,” Iowa State University professor William Gutowski told KCRG.com.

So if you get a feeling of weather disaster déjà vu while watching the latest Weather Channel report of another hurricane like the recent Category 4 monster Ida or severe storm bearing down on the U.S. coast or heartland, you’re not alone. These days, natural disasters in some part of the world are seemingly becoming a daily occurrence.

“It’s no longer impossible to ignore the effects of climate change,” The Mortgage Reports Erik J. Martin writes. “With wildfires, hurricanes, and other disasters threatening homes – especially along the coasts – it’s an issue at the forefront for homeowners.”

Here’s the Aspen Institute’s scary numbers on last year’s violent American weather:

  • The 2020 hurricane season produced 30 named storms, the most on record.
  • In 2020, wildfires drove 100,000 people from their homes and burned over five million acres across Washington, Oregon and California.
  • Last year’s National Disaster Damages totaled $50 billion with 22 separate climate-related disasters, including the Iowa Derecho.

“As Natural Disasters continue to get worse and more frequent, families will be forced to continually deal with the damage, repair and rebuild, or seek more stable housing elsewhere,” the Aspen Institute noted in April’s Taylor Gauther & Financial Security Program analyzing the future state of the American housing market created by climate change.

So how can current and future Iowa homeowners and business owners protect their most important life investments during these volatile weather days? By being as prepared as possible in the event disaster strikes.

In case of emergency, break the glass, but first follow these must tip when scouting and researching the area you would like to buy a house.

  • Vet the Area Carefully: Perform a Google search of the market’s name along with a “climate vulnerability” assessment to yield key research.
  • Learn if the city/state has a Climate Action Plan and what those plans are.
  • Determine the cost and level of homeowners insurance protection you’ll need, including separate flood insurance.
  • Assess if your home or the home you’d like to purchase can withstand natural disasters.
  • If you reside in an area prone to flooding like Cedar Rapids or Davenport, consider purchasing flood insurance. Water damage, like flooding, is not always covered and needs to be purchased separately as flood insurance.

The good news is most American Real Estate Climate Change high risk maps have Iowa centered in one of the country’s lower risk regions (Business Insider lists Tulsa, OK as the country’s most climate change safe housing market), but again, that’s no guarantee the changing American weather climate won’t hurl another derecho-like disaster our way again soon.

As The McHarg Center notes, “With climate change, the number, frequency and intensity of these events is likely to increase.”

In Iowa homeowners’ cases, that means more frequent flooding disasters, like the devastating 2008 flood that engulfed Cedar Rapids and swallowed entire neighborhoods whole. Iowa’s average annual rainfall has increased 12 percent since the mid-1970s, the largest precipitation increase in the U.S. notes University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor James Boulter in his climate study “An Uncertain Future for Iowa: The Outlook for Iowa Communities and Flooding as our Climate Changes.” Davenport, Iowa, which lies on the flood-prone Mississippi River, has experienced seven of its 15 biggest floods since 2009.

“Iowa’s climate is changing,” The Des Moines Register notes. “Most of the state has warmed one-half to one degree (F) in the last century, and floods are becoming more frequent.”

Current case in point: The Turkey River in Northeast Iowa raged to 22.82 feet in Elkader in late August, nearly double its 12-foot flood stage. Elkader home and business owners are weathering their third flood since 2008.

“There’s just a sense of, ‘It’s happening again,” Elkader resident Julie Grau told The Dubuque Telegraph Herald. “It’s been so devastating in the past that everyone is just on the edge of their seat. We know this can really impact people’s businesses, their homes, their livelihood.”

Said Elkader proprietor Brian Bruening, whose downtown restaurant has transformed into an indoor creek, courtesy of the raging Turkey: “It seems like these 100-year floods now come every two or three years.”

Iowa’s now seemingly annual flooding means homeowners need to take the necessary precautions in the terrible, but likely event of another derecho.

“Damage from extreme events continues to pile up in our state at an unprecedented rate,” Dave Courard-Hauri, chair of environmental science and sustainability at Drake University, told the Quad-City Times.

For the one certainty about the future is weather disaster is likely to strike Iowa again. Will you and your home or business be ready?

No one can afford to not know the answer to that question.

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