Extension & DNR Partner to Educate Communities on Flooding

In spring of 2008, cities and citizens along the rivers of central and eastern Iowa experienced catastrophic losses due to flooding. On June 13, 2008, the Cedar River crested in Cedar Rapids at its highest level in history. The floodwaters covered 14 percent of the city, flooded 7,749 total parcels—including 5,390 houses—damaged 310 city facilities, and displaced an estimated 18,000 Cedar Rapids residents.

It is estimated that at the time of the flood only 36% of Cedar Rapids residences located in the Special Flood Hazard Area (commonly known as the “100-year floodplain”) that were impacted by the flood were insured through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This participation rate is consistent with other flood disaster events.

Are property owners aware of the availability of flood insurance? Do they understand their risks from flooding, or the factors that influence the severity of floods? What information is needed by local officials to help them make informed decisions about development in the floodplain?

To address these and many other questions, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) contracted with Gary Taylor, Iowa State University Extension planning and development specialist and associate professor of community and regional planning, to develop educational programming to educate local officials and the general public about floods, flood risks, and the tools available to mitigate possible future losses from flooding. The project is funded through federal disaster assistance made available after 2008 for the purpose of flood education.

The product of this effort will be a series of short 6- to 12-minute videos addressing five broad topics:

Understanding flooding and its causes,

The history and purpose of NFIP,

How floodplains are identified and mapped,

How floodplains are regulated, and

The basics of flood insurance.

The video series, entitled “Flooding in Iowa,” is intended to introduce these topics to an audience without any prior experience in engineering, law, hydrology, or NFIP.

“We are making a deliberate effort to produce videos with as little technical jargon as possible. They rely heavily on illustrations and photos to explain common terms and concepts related to flooding, floodplains, and NFIP,” said Taylor.

To create the illustrations, Taylor has pulled together a diverse team of ISU College of Design students from community and regional planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and biological/pre-medical illustration. The professionals in the IDNR Floodplain Management Division have been provided helpful guidance and expertise in developing the content at every step.

The first seven videos and accompanying written materials were posted on a website at the end of September, with the remaining 15 to 17 videos being added throughout the fall and winter.

The “Flooding in Iowa” video series is posted at www.extension.iastate.edu/floodinginiowa.

Contacts: Gary Taylor, (515) 290-0214, gtaylor@iastate.edu

Sandra Oberbroeckling, 515-294-3721, soberbr@iastate.edu

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