Frozen soil, melting snowpack, and additional precipitation this spring are the cause for devastating flooding in many communities across the state of Iowa and in neighboring Nebraska.

Thousands of Iowans have lost everything as their homes, businesses, and livelihoods have been swept away by floodwaters. As the Missouri and Mississippi rivers continue to experience extreme flooding, more than 50 counties have received a Presidential Disaster Declaration, with more likely by the time the floodwaters recede. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has requested and received $1.6 billion in federal assistance to help Iowans recover from flood damages to individuals, businesses, agriculture, and to repair levees.

IFIS: Science-Based Information

Iowans concerned about flooding are encouraged to use the Iowa Flood Center’s online platform, the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), which provides information on flood conditions, forecasts, warnings, visualizations, and more. The application is based on an easy-to-use Google Maps interface that displays up-to-the-minute community-specific information on rainfall, stream levels, and more, including:

  • Flooding scenarios with contributions from multiple rivers;
  • Real-time and historical data on water levels, gauge heights, and rainfall conditions;
  • 2D and 3D interactive visualizations; and
  • Flood inundation maps for Ames, Cedar Rapids, Charles City, Clarksville, Columbus Junction, Des Moines, Elkader, Fort Dodge, Greene, Hills, Humboldt, Independence, Iowa City, Kalona, Manchester, Maquoketa, Mason City, Monticello, Ottumwa, Plainfield, Red Oak, Rock Rapids, Rock Valley, Spencer, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, and Waverly.
Screen shot of IFIS precipitation map, 3-29-19

The Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) allows users to access up-to-the-minute information on precipitation, river and stream levels, flood forecasts, and more.

IFIS can help Iowans make better-informed decisions concerning flood planning and mitigation efforts, and alerts communities in advance to help residents prepare for and minimize potential flood damage.

Spring Flooding to Continue

Unfortunately, early indicators are showing that conditions are likely to worsen as flood season continues, so it’s important that people stay alert and understand their flood risks.

“The stage is set for record flooding now through May,” said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service.

Flooding could be exacerbated in the coming weeks by warming temperatures and melting snow in the north, causing runoff that will flow south.

“Not all of the snow has melted up north, so this is not over by a long shot,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. He cautions that while much of the flood damage has affected western and northern Iowa so far, all flood-prone parts of the state deserve attention and should be considering proactive measures.

Casualties and Damages

Rising water levels have breached levees along the Missouri River and forced several towns in Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa to evacuate.

Flooding has slammed communities in Iowa and Nebraska, killing at least three people and causing $3 billion in damages so far. More than 2,000 homes and 340 businesses have been lost to flooding in Nebraska, and some roads in western Iowa may take months to rebuild.

Federal and State Response

Aides of the governor traveled to southwest Iowa to meet with local and federal officials to discuss how to repair levees that have been breached along 245 miles of the Missouri River. Reynolds said Iowa must take a regional approach with Nebraska and Missouri to deal with this year’s flood disaster.

Reynolds has launched a flood hotline and website where people impacted or looking to help can access recovery resources and information. Visit

by Mikael Mulugeta

University of Iowa



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