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Flood insurance:

Flooded homes It’s not just for people by the river….

Quick Facts

During and immediately after 2008’s disastrous flooding of the Iowa River, flood insurance was a hot topic among flood victims and those who were spared. Interviews with flood victims would relate the stories of the lucky few who had insurance, and the unfortunate reports of others who didn’t think they needed insurance, or those who believed they could not purchase flood insurance.

In the floods of 2008, many homes that were damaged or destroyed were located outside of mandatory flood insurance areas. Most homes were not insured against floods. FEMA reports this is a common occurrence, and that 90% of the time, people who aren’t required to carry flood insurance don’t purchase this coverage. However, as the floods of 2008 demonstrated, that decision can have a devastating, long-lasting impact on a homeowner’s property, livelihood, and financial stability.

As time has passed and the 2008 flood recedes from the headlines, it is vitally important to maintain an awareness of flood insurance, so property owners are better prepared for future flood events. Property owners whose homes are not located near a body of water may also benefit from flood insurance coverage. 

According to FEMA, a flood isn’t just an event that occurs when a river or stream goes over its banks; FEMA’s definition of “flood” includes four scenarios under which a flood can occur, one of which is an unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source. In a heavy storm, rainwater that courses across your lawn and into your house is considered a flood, whether or not the water came directly from a river or creek, such as Ralston Creek in Iowa City.

Following are some quick facts about flood insurance:

  • In some situations, flood insurance is mandatory. For homes or property where there is a 1% annual chance of flooding (also referred to as the 100-year flood plain), homes that are purchased with a federally-insured loan, and homes that have been flooded and repaired with federal funds (regardless of whether or not they’re in the 100-year flood plain), flood insurance is required.
  • The purchase of flood insurance is optional if the property is located in an area where there is a 0.2% chance of flooding in any given year (commonly referred to as the 500-year flood plain). Homeowners located in the 100-year flood plain can also opt out of mandatory flood insurance if their home was purchased without a federally insured loan.
  • All homeowners in Johnson County can purchase flood insurance. Premiums are less expensive for homes outside of the 100-year flood plain, where insurance isn’t required. The cost of premiums differs, depending on the amount of coverage required by the lender, whether or not the home has a basement, whether the homeowner opts for contents coverage, and other factors. Insurance that is purchased at the time a homeowner closes on a loan will be effective on the loan closing date. Otherwise, there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage begins.

The best course of action for property owners is to consult with their individual insurance provider.


  • FEMA website on flood insurance, www.floodsmart.gov is a comprehensive resource on flood insurance, or call FEMA toll-free at 1-888-379-9531.
  • To find out whether a home is located in a flood plain, homeowners can review a Flood Insurance Rate Map on the FEMA website at www.fema.gov/hazard/flood/info.shtm.
  • Local flood plain maps are also available on the Johnson County website at www.johnson-county.com.

On the map, properties in the 100-year flood plain are identified as Zone A; those in the 500-year flood plain are listed as Zone X. Select the county’s GIS Online Map Service, enter an address in the fields shown, and click on the parcel number when it appears. When the parcel shows up onscreen, look for the Aerial Photography folder located on the left side of the screen and check the 2008 Orthos box. Then open the FEMA folder and check the box next to the FEMA Flood Hazard Areas. If the color of the land changes, the property is in a flood hazard area.

City Contact Person:

Julie Tallman, Certified Floodplain Manager
City of Iowa City

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