Flash to the Past – Floods of 1993 versus Ames of 2010

Lil Diva is sleeping. The Tackler is up. He will hopefully soon be napping. And she will be up.

I wonder if she will sleep long enough that I get the Double Nap today…

Most of my free time has been spent reading about the flooding going on in Ames, IA.  It’s brought me back to the floods of 1993.

Flashback to 1993

It was Saturday, July 10th at 10:45 AM (I had to look up the actual date).  I vividly remember this because I was scheduled to work at 11 AM at Baker’s Square.

Only I couldn’t get out of Johnston thanks to Beaver Creek.

The main road, Merle Hay, had water hitting the underside of the bridge. Due to the sheer force of it, they closed the bridge because they feared it had moved (we later found out it hadn’t).

Not fully realizing HOW MUCH WATER this involved, I tried 62nd Ave which runs parallel.  That road was underwater by at least 20 feet deep.


The only other ways I knew of out of town were also closed. The bridge over Saylorville Dam fluctuated open and closed throughout the next few days.

I did the only thing I could.

I called work and told them I wouldn’t be coming in today due to the fact I couldn’t leave town because EVERY ROAD between us was closed.

The creek wasn’t far from where we lived (and where my parents still live).  Luckily, most of the area around it was a designated flood plain.  There were only bike trails in the main area by us. I took my bike to check it out.

I didn’t get very far.

There was a lake in my way. A huge, massive lake.

I still have a hard time imaging where all of that water came from. To go up a foot, it had to spread out over so many more feet wide…and…. It was insane.

And scary.  The night before I’d driven home on the previously mentioned 62nd Ave between midnight and 1 AM (my curfew). I remember I hit a large puddle.  Now I wondered… had that been the water starting to go over the road?? How close had I come to being swept away because I’d had no idea the water was rising?

It was a very sobering thought.

It wasn’t in me to just sit around watching TV all day (besides, my parents didn’t get cable until several years ago).  So my dad, being Expert of County Roads, helped me and my friend Becca (who lived three houses down the street) escape Johnston.  We weaved around on all of the back roads and saw several places the water had receded already. I was hopelessly turned around and have no idea how my dad knew where we were.

It took forty-five minutes to get to Urbandale, in what it typically a 3 mile, 5 minute drive.

We met up with my good friends Matt and Jason and did what any teenager should do in such a circumstance.

We went sandbagging (no parental notices required for the under 18 crowd then).

We were at the West Des Moines Water Works plant.  Down the road a few blocks, people were trying to build a levee to protect homes, but at the water plant, we were nice and dry. And hot.

I think we spent two hours sand bagging until our backs and arms protested greatly from movement.  I don’t know what we did after that exactly. Sought out food. Cleaned up. Becca and I were staying at her mom’s house that night (Becca lived with her Dad) because it was on the non-island side of the creek.  There was no way our directionally challenged selves could navigate the back roads in the dark with all of the flooding.

When I woke up the next morning I was informed by her mom to not flush the toilet.


The flooding had hit the Des Moines water plant during the night and all of Des Moines (and Johnston) had lost their water supply.

That day I think EVERYONE was sandbagging where we’d been the day before. Because if West Des Moines and the areas it served lost their water, there would be NOWHERE to go for clean clothes or a shower.

The memories get fuzzy here, but a few surge to the surface of what happened that next week.

My G-ma rented a hotel in Ankeny (because they had water). We had to drive at least 45 minutes to get there because the interstate and the road to get to it (Merle Hay) were closed.

The hot shower was worth it.

I was relieved from work for a while, because without running water they couldn’t open.

Three days after losing water, Johnston was somehow able to get access to non-potable water from one of their water towers. So we could shower again. And flush toilets.

Thank God.

Computer God was not so lucky.  He lived with his parents up a massive hill closer to the dam.  They didn’t have enough water pressure to get water to his house. I have no idea what he did during this time as we barely knew each other as this point.

They had massive trucks come in with water for us. We could only get two gallons of water per person a day, or something like that.

The roads were closed for several days.  People were biking everywhere on the main road (Merle Hay) because without through traffic, there was zero traffic. Where could you go?

It was a happy day when they finally deemed the Merle Hay bridge hadn’t moved and we could finally drive across it.

Of course, most eateries and business were closed, due to NO WATER.

Back to 2010

Flash forward 17 years. This time, it’s Ames, IA that is hit hard (although I have no idea what Beaver Creek is like right now).  I lived in Ames from 1995 until 2003 when I moved to Texas. Iowa State University is my alma mater.

I love Ames. I bought my first house there (on high ground).  I can’t help but be very very glad I don’t live there now. I’m certain, with the amount of rain received, that my old  basement flooded (due to stairs that lead to an exterior entrance to the basement, with only a small drain to keep the water out).  It flooded once for me, but it was partially my fault as leaves had partially blocked the drain. And luckily at that point, I hadn’t fully finished that part of the basement.

I can only image what 9 inches of rain in 3 days would’ve done. And it isn’t pretty.

My brother lives close to the stadium (luckily, also on higher ground). He can walk two blocks and see the lake that is the commuter/stadium/Hilton parking lot. ALL OF IT A LAKE, with a few sections of road showing.

Fisher Theatre, where I spent so much time in college was part of an island yesterday. I wonder what was damaged. Just the basement where the costume shop and area where sets were built. All those tools? All of those costumes? How high did it go? Did it reach the theatre? The auditorium?

My old dorm of Maple was surrounded on 3 sides by water, its parking lot completely submerged yesterday. Only the high walkway would’ve enabled you to get into the building. I know they built a levee because of flooding several years ago, but from the photos, it certainly didn’t look like it had held.

Ames had multiple water main breaks happen. Their water is shut down, much like Des Moines’s in 1993. My brother now has no drinking water. I think they’re supposed to be able to take quick showers by today, so they still have water access at least.

But more rain is forecasted. And school starts there soon.

My family is having seepage issues in their basement in Johnston.  I haven’t talked to my mom yet today to see if it’s any worse.

So Mother Nature, send a bit of the water my way (like you did yesterday).. just A BIT. And let them dry out.  Grass is typically brown and crispy this time of year. Not a lake.

*I would like to add photos, but 1993 was before digital cameras, and I don’t own the rights to ones from this year. So here is a link to a video posted online. Video of flooding by Hilton in Ames, IA 2010

** The Des Moines Register has photos here of flooding: Articles and Photos of 2010 Flooding

**Lil Diva thankfully slept 2.5 hours, and The Tackler fell asleep, so I did have a nice break today to type this. Thanks kiddos!


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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One Response to Flash to the Past – Floods of 1993 versus Ames of 2010

  1. Pingback: Rain, Rain, Feel Free to Stay… And Quick Kiddo Update | Dances with Chaos

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