Floods of '93 Remembered - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Floods of '93 Remembered

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By Alex Schuman

aschuman@myabc5.com

@alexschuman

Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the floods of 1993.

It was July of that year that the Des Moines river rose higher than at any time in recent history.

"Things quickly changed one night," said Marvin Morris, Army Corp. of Engineers.  "It was five inch rain that just dumped right on the watershed."

Heavy rains and a severe winter left river levels throughout Iowa.

"It wasn't just a local event," said Morris.

The Racoon River rose 14 feet higher than usual, and combined with the Des Moines to devastate people's houses and businesses.

Waters forced people to turn their vans into their homes, and created long lines for water.

Des Moines Water Works' main treatment plant had been flooded, which left thousands without any water for 11 days.

One other section of the metro hit hard was Valley Junction.

"The day before we flooded, they said, 'Oh, the levee's gonna hold.  No problem,' said Kathy Harkrader, who worked at the Theatrical Shop when the flood hit.  "Then the morning of the flood they said, "Oh, we were wrong!'"

Officials gave store owners just a few hours to clear out their shops.

"We were sandbagging with plastic bags taped to the windows," she said.

Three to four feet of water made it inside the shop.

Since then a new levee has been built to protect the Valley Junction area.  The City of Des Moines invested 120 million into service improvements to the sewer and pipes.

A huge levee, and large, steel flood gates turn the treatment plant into a fortress.

The theatrical shop changed too, and became one of the first shops in the area to reopen after the flood.

"I don't know if anything went back to normal," said Harkrader.  "Because at that time you saw changes.  You saw people painting.  You saw people planting new planters.  You saw new fronts.  So it was kind of a good and bad you know situation happening because you saw the good come out of a really bad situation."

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