‘There’s always going to be a bigger flood’


The Iowa Flood Center is bringing a new level of insight to a natural disaster Iowans are seeing more and more. 

The center started at the University of Iowa in 2009 — just one year after the historic 2008 flood. 

Associate Director Dr. Nathan Young said they realized they could, and needed, to do more to make sure people were prepared for flooding. 

Young said the center is working on expanding its Iowa Flood Information System, which is a series of maps that track and predict flooding scenarios, to include Davenport. 

When that happens, anyone will be able to see what the flood will look like at different stages, how deep the waters will be and how much damage will cost. 

But Young said there are still several lessons to take away from this year’s flood. 

1. You can’t get rid of flood risk 

“It will always be there,” Young said.

Davenport’s flood plan has worked in the past, but Young said it could never be a guarantee.

“Davenport historically has been kind of celebrated for the the way that they’ve developed their flood plain,” he said. “It’s just that this year it was a significantly larger flood.” 

2. Flood prevention is not cheap

The City of Davenport says it spends about $250,000 on fighting floods each year. This year it’s projects to be in the millions, but a spokesperson said a flood wall would cost $200 million.

Young said whether or not Davenport needs to build a flood wall is a decision the community has to make by weighing what they’re willing to risk with what they’re willing to pay. 

Ideally he said businesses and homes would move out of the flood plain.

“Unfortunately that’s not economically feasible in most cases,” Young said.

3. ‘There’s always going to be a bigger flood’

That’s something Quad Citians already know too well, but Young says the worst is yet to come for the rest of the state. Peak flood season for Iowa is in June.

“We’ve got another battle ahead of us,” Young said.

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