’93 FLOOD: Has It Really Been 20 Years?

Pardon the pun but these memories come flooding back.

“At the time it was crazy,” says Sam Bernabe, general manager of the Iowa Cubs.

How could anyone forget?

Truth trumped fiction.

“It was picking up pieces of asphalt and it was throwing them around, it was so powerful,” says Steve Little of Des Moines.

“The manholes literally popped off the streets and the water gushing up,” adds former WHO Radio news director, Bob Quinn.

Everyone was affected.

“Just water everywhere,” says Tim Benoit of West Des Moines.

But what’s more difficult to believe — that it happened, or that it’s now been 20 years since it did?

“Makes you feel old,” Benoit laughs,”That’s 20 years ago, really?”

One of the iconic images is of the newly-renovated Sec Taylor Stadium from the air, one that Bernabe still marvels at.

“You see farms and you see neighborhoods and you see areas along the shoreline that flood,” he says. “You don’t see ballparks that flood.”

Bernabe had been called back from the All-Star Game in Albuquerque and got his first view from the 3rd Street bridge, “Everything was just underwater and man, it was just unbelievable.”

Oddly, it wasn’t the rivers that ultimately swamped the stadium, it was the sewer drains which backed up and flooded in from the dugout drains.

“The water came up to the infield grass, and my groundskeeper went out and put up an inflatable palm tree because it looked like it was an island.”

West of the stadium, Valley Junction fought a losing battle against the Raccoon.

“They weren’t going to make it and they knew they weren’t going to make it,” Quinn says, “but that was all they had, their whole livelihood was there.”

Steve Little had bought the well-known Johnny’s Vet’s Club in Valley Junction just four years earlier and was on vacation. He’d seen the news reports on TV.

“I get hold of my brother and he says ‘I’ve got good news and bad news,'” says Little. “He says ‘the good news is you don’t have to come back, the bad news is, there’s nothing to come back TO!’”

The Raccoon had flooded Johnny’s before, but never like this, “It just came right over the back and right through the place.”

Valley Junction was full of tough old businesses, but for Johnny’s and many others, this was simply too much.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever been around sewer mud, but that’s what it smells like. It’s just filthy.”

Little closed Johnny’s for good, and to this day, its old lot at 63rd and Railroad remains empty.

It took parts of Des Moines years to recover from the flood, but the I-Cubs actually went on to one of their best seasons ever.  Their road trip ended the day the water came back on. Not one rainout!

“That was the year we didn’t have ANY,” Bernabe laughs, “as opposed to this year when we had six inches of snow on May 3rd!”

The stadium made it through ’93 — so did we all… perhaps for the better.

“I think there’s a lot more confidence now that we’ve made it through devastation like that,” says Cori White of Urbandale.

“You can look around and not see ruminants of flood,” Quinn says, “people have moved on and people have rebuilt, businesses have rebuilt.”

“Oh, you know, I’m not much for change,” Little smiles, “but it’s worked out okay.”

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years. Perhaps one day it’ll be even HARDER to believe it happened at all.

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