Update on the Flooding in Iowa … And Some Tips on Protecting Yourself

Hundreds of people have emailed me asking questions about the current flooding situation in Iowa. Has my home been affected? How bad is it really?

Well, I’ll let the front page of the Des Moines Register speak for itself.

Where I’m at (luckily), there’s been only minor ill effect. We’ve had some minor flash flooding in our back yard, but nothing disastrous (other than some depressing garden damage – I don’t think the rosemary and other herbs will recover). Our basement water pump has been running almost nonstop for the last two weeks. Many cornfields near my house (including the one I can see out of my back door to the east) are partially or entirely covered in water, however. Road travel in Des Moines is very challenging right now, with many, many roads closed.

I have family in northern Iowa that are being seriously affected by this flooding, and I have a lot of family in southern Iowa and western Illinois that are going to be affected by this in a week, when the high water that’s currently in northern Iowa will have reached them. Here’s the data I’m looking at that will be affecting them soon.

Part of the challenge for Iowa is that a large portion of the Iowa National Guard is stationed overseas, making it difficult for the remaining Guard to respond effectively to local emergencies like this.

What Can I Do To Protect Myself?

Know your flood risk Use floodsmart.gov to find out if the property you live in now (or a property you’re considering buying) is a significant flood risk. My area, unfortunately, isn’t covered by that web site (as of just a few years ago, my home was classified as farmland, so the data hasn’t been updated), so my next step was to contact the FEMA Map Service Center to find out my risk. I have a small risk for flash flooding, but minimal risk for river flooding, which was about what I expected.

Determine your need for flood insurance If you’re in an area with some degree of flood risk, consult your homeowner’s insurance policy to find out what coverage you have in the event of a flash flood or a separate significant flood event. The Simple Dollar’s Randy Woods explains more about what’s covered in his homeowners guide. If you live in a flood plain that has flooded in the last thirty years or so, you should definitely have flood insurance.

Be aware of the flood control plan in your neighborhood or town if you do live in a flood plain. Know what rivers you should be watching and what signs you should be looking for that a flooding situation may be occurring. Contact city hall and ask if there is a flood control plan for your town and ask for a copy of it, so you’ll have an idea of what the “concern” levels are for the flood protection in your area.

What Can I Do To Help If I’m Not Affected?

Volunteer, if you can Many towns near major rivers in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin could definitely use sandbagging help. If you’re a college student off for the summer and would like a way to use your time to help people in need, contact the city hall or town hall in some of the towns in southern Iowa and western Illinois that lie along the Des Moines, Skunk, and Mississippi Rivers and volunteer to help in exchange for shelter and food. They’ll be glad to quickly find you a host family.

Consider what’s happened here as a part of who you vote for in November. The candidate who is putting resources into FEMA and the National Guard is the candidate that’s really interested in helping America out. Draw your own conclusions on which candidate that is for each office, but keep it in mind when you vote.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.