Iowa Natural Disasters That Could Cost You

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Every state is prone to its own natural disasters. The residents of California hardly blink when met with an earthquake, while those living in Oklahoma accept the possibility of tornadoes as an everyday occurrence.

But with the changing climate creating more frequent and severe extreme weather events, the cost of natural disasters is poised to go nowhere but up. The cost of natural disasters in terms of dollars and human lives can be devastating — and Iowa is, unfortunately, no exception.

Since 1953, Iowa has suffered 67 official major disasters. Floods and severe storms have made up most of these. Here are some of the most common natural disasters to occur in Iowa, and what they could end up costing you.


Iowa is already prone to major floods, and extreme weather conditions are likely to make things much worse. Around 150,000 residents of Iowa live on flood plains or in flood-prone areas. Heavy rainfall, melting snow, and overflowing rivers all increase the risk. Floods can not only cause property damage, but also hit the economy hard as services and transportation are brought to a standstill.

Severe Storms

Thunderstorms, torrential rains, and strong winds are all a part of everyday life in Iowa — the state ranks high on the list of total lightning-related fatalities, with over 70 documented deaths from lightning strikes in the state since 1959.

One such storm hit the state in August of 2020, with 100 mph winds causing extensive damage to homes, infrastructure, and farmland. The estimated losses were in the billions.

Storms can be particularly costly to individuals, as they’re likely to cause extensive damage to homes and vehicles — this is particularly true in the spring, where hailstones can wreak havoc on cars and structures. People new to Iowa, or looking to move there, should make sure their Iowa home or car insurance covers things like storm damage.


Iowa is firmly inside what’s known as “Tornado Alley,” experiencing an average of almost 50 tornadoes each year. Tornadoes can happen in any season, but usually peak in May and June. A single EF5 tornado in 2008 caused over 50 fatalities and almost $1 billion in damages.

One of the most dangerous things about tornadoes is they can crop up without much warning — meaning it’s important to be prepared. Several cities in Iowa have sirens and text warnings to alert people to danger so they can get to a safe place in a timely fashion. Residents of Iowa often have an interior room (without windows or exterior doors) to act as a safe area, storing food, water, first aid supplies, and any other items they need in case of an emergency.

Winter Storms

Iowa winters can be cold — averaging about 14 degrees in the northwest, with anywhere between 25 and 40 inches of snow falling each winter. Blizzards and snowstorms can make traveling dangerous, increase the likelihood of accidents on the road, and damage vehicles and property. If faced with the possibility of a blizzard, have a plan to shelter in place or stay at home while you wait out the storm. Unlike tornadoes, winter storms often have advance warning, making them easier to prepare for.


While not the most common of disasters in Iowa, landslides do happen, particularly around western and southern parts of the state. Heavy rains can cause landslides that wash out or even bury entire roads and freeways — which will, needless to say, incur considerable cost in terms of infrastructure problems. If you live in an area of Iowa you know to be prone to landslides, consider consulting a professional to help you with preparing the area around your home against possible damage, and keep enough provisions and supplies around your home to keep yourself and your family members fed and safe for two weeks.

Droughts and Heat Waves

Among the more concerning effects of the changing climate are rising temperatures. In the summer, the average temperature in Iowa is between 78 and 85 degrees — but heatwaves are not uncommon, and are only likely to grow more common as time goes on. As recently as July 2019, a summer heat wave brought temperatures up to 110 degrees. Extreme heat can be taxing on the power infrastructure as citizens crank up the air conditioning, causing brownouts or even power outages, which can be their own safety hazard. (To be fair, this is also true of outages caused by storms, tornadoes and landslides.)

What You Can Do

One of the best ways to be prepared for disasters is just that — be prepared. Download some apps to track the weather and alert you of any possible pending conditions. Stockpile supplies (including food, water, and medication) in case you can’t get to them for a few days or even weeks. Have a safety plan about who to call, where to meet up in case of emergency, including a full-on evacuation plan.