West Des Moines Looks Back on Floods of ’93 and Improvements Made Since

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The floods of 1993 changed the landscape of Iowa forever, but also helped bring about changes so--even 25 years later--the area does not experience the same destruction again.

Vanessa McBurney now works at The Heart of Quilting in Valley Junction, but back in 1993 she worked in West Des Moines for the phone company.

“I do remember the phone company was very supportive of these people, we were let off work so we could go help them do bagging, I mean it was devastation for Des Moines and surrounding areas. It didn't matter if you were rich or you were poor, which side of town you came on, everybody was there to help,” said McBurney.

She says the recent flooding gave her flashbacks.

“All I kept thinking was, 'not another '93...I hope in my lifetime I never see another '93,'” she said.

One of the people in charge of making sure another ‘93 doesn't happen is West Des Moines city engineer Brian Hemesath.

"Since ‘93, we've installed the flood system along Walnut Creek, along the Raccoon River, and since then it's protected us very well from all the flooding we've had. We've had floods almost as high as 1993 on the Raccoon River and we've stayed very well-protected," he said.

Hemesath says while the levees were put into place after 1993, they had been in the city's plans for years beforehand.  He says the floods did cause the city to raise the planned height of the levees a few feet. The city also installed the flood gates to protect 63rd Street from Walnut Creek. However, the work isn't done.  The city is currently working on a bigger culvert and pump system under 63rd and Grand.

“It's going to intercept a significant amount of water that normally floods that area when we have our floodgates closed and it creates that bathtub effect. So what we're trying to do is to drain that bathtub,” said Hemesath.

The first phase of the project will be finished in November and will use a bigger pipe to allow more water to flow away from highway the roads. The pump system will be installed in 2019, which will allow crews to pump water out when the floodgates are closed.