Flood Information Center
The links listed below contain information regarding flooding and development in the floodplain. This information includes brochures, flood maps, elevation certificate information, an annual progress report for Des Moines projects identified in the Polk County Hazard Mitigation Plan, and links to FEMA's "Flood Smart" and flood insurance websites. The tabs at the bottom of the page contain Frequently Asked Questions as well as important information / safety tips for before, during, and after a flood event. If you have any questions regarding this information or if you are seeking additional information about the floodplain or floodplain development, please contact the Permit & Development Center staff at 515-283-4200.
- FEMA "Floodsmart" Website
- FEMA Flood Insurance Website
- FEMA Flood Maps
- Iowa Flood Center
- River Gage Information - National Weather Service
- Flood Hazard Brochure
- Folleto de Inundación (Español)
- Flood Mitigation and Levee Maintenance
- List of Elevation Certificates on File
- FEMA Elevation Certificate Form
- City of Des Moines Annual Progress Report for the Polk County Hazard Mitigation Plan
Know Your Flood Hazard
The mapped special flood hazard area, commonly referred to as the floodplain or the 100-year floodplain, is the area that has a 1% chance of being flooded in any given year. However, depending on where you are located within the floodplain, your property may be subject to flooding more often than once every 100 years. In addition, if your property is not located in the floodplain, that does not mean your property will not flood. Flooding typically takes place in spring and summer but can also occur in the winter months from ice jams during unusually warm-weather periods, which cause rapid snow and ice melting.
Flood Insurance - Please Spread the Word
Your homeowners' insurance policy will generally not cover losses due to flooding. Des Moines participates in the National Flood Insurance Program--which makes flood insurance available to everyone in the city. Information about flood insurance can be obtained from your insurance agent. You do not have to live in the floodplain to qualify for flood insurance. Property owners anywhere in the City can insure their buildings and contents, and renters anywhere in the City can insure their possessions. Insurance may be purchased which covers less than full property value, unless full value coverage is required by your lender. There is a 30-day waiting period, after the insurance is purchased, before it goes into effect. The city belongs to the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System as a Class 7 community, which earns the citizens within special flood hazard areas a 15% reduction in flood insurance rates and those outside special flood hazard areas a 5% reduction in flood insurance rates.
Flood Warnings - Stay Informed
The City of Des Moines currently has an "Early Warning Weather Alert" system in place and operational. This system employs stream, river, and rainfall gauges deployed throughout the area to monitor rainfall amounts and stream and river levels. This information is then gathered and used by the National Weather Service to forecast the levels of flooding expected and to disseminate warnings to residents by weather radio, tone-activated alert radios, and all major TV and radio stations. Civil defense sirens are not used for flood warnings. When flooding is imminent and evacuations become necessary, a coordinated effort between the Code RED emergency notification system and public address systems in emergency vehicles will be used to notify people within the evacuation area. Those that wish to be notified by telephone, TDD, text or e-mail must be registered for Code RED. If you would like to receive Code RED notifications, please register on-line at www.polkcountyiowa.gov/emergency-management or contact Polk County Emergency Management at (515) 286-2107. When flooding is possible, stay tuned to your local TV or radio, monitor your basement floor drain for sewer back-ups, and consider moving valuables to higher ground. Warning times vary depending on which drainage basin your property is in and flash flooding in smaller creeks and basins can occur with little or no warning.
Build Responsibly - Floodplain Development Regulations
The City of Des Moines has adopted regulations which apply to development within flood hazard areas. Development is considered building construction, remodeling, repair of damaged structures, factory built home installations, public utility installations, as well as grading and/or filling of the land within the flood hazard areas. If you plan any development on your property as defined above, you will need to apply for a Floodplain Development Permit in addition to a Building Permit and/or a Grading Permit at the Permit and Development Center. If your building is substantially damaged (more than 50% of its value before it was damaged) by flood, fire or other disaster, or if improvements (rehab., additions, etc. are made which increase the value by more than 50%, or the floor area by more than 25%, you will then be required to bring your structure in to compliance with current regulations. Current regulations require the lowest floor of the building to be at least one foot above the 100-year flood elevation. This regulation is enforced through the permit process. If you have any questions about the permits or the application process, please call 515-283-4200 or stop in to the Permit and Development Center, Armory Building, 602 Robert D. Ray Drive.
Protect Natural Floodplain Functions - Report Issues
In a rainfall event, streets, storm sewers, overland swales, ditches, tributary systems, and rivers are all utilized for transportation and storage of stormwater. For this reason, the City of Des Moines has regulations against dumping in streams and drainageways. To report any stormwater concerns such as illegal dumping, illicit discharge, drainage concerns, or polluted runoff from a construction site please contact the city's 24-hour customer service hotline at 515-283-4950.
Flood Safety - Protect Yourself, Your Property, and Others
- Know the flood warning procedures.
- Plan escape routes to high ground.
- During times of heavy rainfall, stay tuned to radio or TV for possible flood warnings.
- Evacuate the flood hazard area in times of impending flood or when advised to do so by authorities.
- Do not attempt to cross a flooded area on foot or in a vehicle - TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN.
- If your vehicle stalls in high water, abandon it and seek higher ground immediately.
- Keep children away from flood waters, ditches, culverts, and storm drains.
- Turn off your electricity if your building is being flooded.
- If your basement becomes flooded, pumping water out too fast may cause walls to collapse.
- Check your home for water entry points such as basement windows and protect them accordingly.
- After a flood, thoroughly clean everything that got wet - WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.