FLOOD OF ’93: Two Weeks Without Water

“Within minutes now, the Polk County Sheriff`s Department advises the Des Moines water supply will be cut off. The flood has been so severe around the Water Works area,” said Meteorologist Ed Wilson on July 10th, 1993.

With those words came something central Iowans will never forget.

For Dan and Chico Twelmeyer, the day Des Moines lost water happened to be the most important day of their lives.

“If we`re standing in water, we`re going to get married. We`ll figure out a way to do it,” said Chico Twelmeyer, a Des Moines woman who was married the day Des Moines Water Works went under.

The “I do`s” went on as scheduled, but wedding hair and nails were done with buckets of water and dishes were cleaned using a 50 gallon tank provided by the Iowa National Guard.

Bob and Maggie Higday already enjoyed Anheuser-Busch products, but what was canned during the floods of ’93 had a different flavor.

Anheusher-Busch provided canned water.

It was a clean and purified alternative to water out of a truck.

“It tasted great,” said Maggie Higday.

Everything from cooking to taking a shower was a challenge.

Dr. L.D. McMullen had the greatest challenge of all.

The former director of Des Moines Water Works had to make the drastic decision to shut down the plant.

He says if he didn`t, people could have been without water for a lot longer.

“That shut down that we did was one of the reasons we were able to get the plant back up and running in seven days. If we had not done that, it could have been months,” McMullen told Channel 13 News.

With the power and water supply shut down, crews spent about a week pumping six feet of water out of the plant and volunteers laid down sandbags to keep it below the levees.

Once taken for granted, people could flush their toilets 12 days after the plant shut down and could drink water out of the tap a week after that.

Twenty years later, McMullen says a flood of the Raccoon River isn`t nearly the threat to our water supply that it used to be.

“The levee around the Fleur Drive treatment plant is six feet higher than it was in 1993,” said McMullen.

Even if water made it over the levee, the city could rely on two other treatment facilities.

One is in Maffitt Reservoir, the other is in Saylorville Lake.

Finally, it`s just easier to gather data and pass it along.

“The communication between the Army Corps of Engineers, the Iowa National Guard, and Des Moines Public Works and all other agencies is so improved,” said McMullen.

Those improvements mean that if the city does ever flood again, the Higday`s will never have to drink water out of an aluminum can.

“It`s something you never forget,” said Higday.

As the Twelmeyer`s look back on twenty years of marriage, they know they`ll never celebrate their vows the same way.

“I took the plunge in the flood, for wetter or for worse,” said Chico Twelmeyer.