Why Iowa is One of the States Most Impacted by Natural Disasters

Promoted Post

When most Americans speak about natural disasters, they don’t think of Iowa. Rather, their minds go to places like Florida, with its wealth of hurricanes, and California, with its earthquakes and wildfires. These are the places that are most likely to make the news. Iowa seems like it has a moderate climate in comparison.

In some ways, this is true. Iowa has four prominent seasons, and few cities experience sudden swings in temperature. There is no risk of a volcanic eruption, tsunamis, or hurricanes. However, it is the more mundane type of natural disasters that have led Iowa to become the fourth most-impacted state.

These natural disasters include tornadoes, snowstorms, and flooding. There is also the occasional derecho – a line of powerful, quick windstorms sometimes joined by thunderstorms traversing a large expanse of land. The 2020 derecho caused over $11 billion in damages.

This makes it all the more important that you protect your possessions. Renters insurance in Iowa may give you coverage against theft, water damage, natural disasters, and more. You will be able to claim payouts for your things, including clothing, electronics, furniture, etc.

Let’s take a look at what puts Iowa at such high risk of natural disaster.

Major climate disasters

There is a reason that you don’t think of Iowa as a hub of natural disasters. When it comes to major climate disasters, the statistics place Iowa fairly low on the list. Between 1980 and 2022, Iowa ranked 22nd in terms of the number of climate disasters costing a billion dollars or more.

In other words, it falls somewhere in the middle, where it can be left out of sight and out of mind for most Americans. However, this only tells a small part of the story.

Per-capita damage

The reality is that US states are unequal in size. Therefore, simply looking at the value of the damage caused by natural disasters can give you a skewed perspective. This is why the per-capita damage caused is a more key metric. When you look at the per-capita damage, Iowa falls at number 5.

What exactly causes the damage?


Flooding is the most common cause of damage by natural disasters in Iowa. This has been true throughout modern history, even if climate change has worsened conditions recently. There have been a few flooding incidents that have major historical significance.

We can go back all the way to 1927 for one of the worst floods on record. Heavy rains caused the banks of the Mississippi River to overflow. 270,000 square miles were covered by flood waters for a full two months. Over 700,000 people had to leave their homes. The incident led to flood walls being built.

However, those flood walls could not prevent the flooding of 1993. That period of flooding left many riverfront towns under water. The Des Moines city water plant was flooded, cutting off the water supply to the city for nineteen days.

Tornadoes and snowstorms

Drought is another common disaster that causes significant damage (every ten years or so). But it is tornadoes and snowstorms that tend to grab the headlines. Tornadoes in Iowa can have wind speeds up to 300 mph, causing tremendous damage as they rage through the state.

Snowstorms may not be as dramatic, but they can lead to major damage to properties and leave people stuck in their homes in wintry conditions.

Fortunately, we have great advance-warning systems in place to protect us. As such, the loss of human life from these disasters is minimal. Nonetheless, they have a major impact on our economy and way of life.

You may not think of Iowa as a disaster-heavy state, but the climate disasters that do hit cause a lot of damage. Your homes should always be ready and your stuff insured in case of the all-too-common flooding.