Saturday, June 28, 2008

Des Moines Flooding (Conclusion)

By Mark Hutchens

One other interesting story of what not to do during a flood and then I have to get going. On Thursday June 12th after we packed up to bug out of City Hall I was first sent out to the Birdland area to help direct the reinforcement of a levee that was falling into the river. About 1:00 my supervisor called and said he was sending another guy out to replace me and I was going to the MLK neighborhood to raise a levee. The new river forecast showed this levee would be over topped that night flooding the neighborhood. I mobilized a contractor and we all headed to the site. To raise the levee we had to back dump truck loads of dirt 2800 feet down a bike trail on top of the levee and place and compact the dirt with heavy equipment. When we started the river was less than a foot from going over the bike path.

There is a culvert that drains low ground between the street and the levee back into the river when the river is low. This culvert has a flap gate on it to keep the river out when it is high. The flap gate was leaking some so our Public Works Department has two 6 inch pumps set up pumping the water back over the levee. We could not back the trucks down the bike path with the pumps in place so I had Public Works come out to move them out of our way. The residents in the area all had water in their basements and came unglued when we removed the pumps. I explained to them that the river was going to go over the levee that night asked them if they want a little water or a lot of water. All they cared about was that the pumps were running and things started to get real ugly really fast. We had some cops up the street directing our trucks through traffic so I called one of them down and he got things under control. The natives still were not happy and called their City Councilman out to the location. I convinced the Councilman that we were doing all we could for these people.

After we built the levee up past the location of the pumps I had public works come back to reset them. One Public Works guy showed up first and the rest of the crew and the equipment were on the way. Mind you these pumps weigh more than my car. Two of the natives insisted that the Public works guy and myself get the pumps set and running. We explained to him that the rest of the crew and the equipment was on the way but they still were not happy. They wouldn’t let up and we were tired and fed up so another call to the cops. The cops showed up right away and these two idiots lit into them. Bad idea on their part. Click Click. You have the right to remain silent and so on. Charged them with disorderly conduct and interference with official acts, us trying to save their sorry houses, and hauled them away. Lesson learned - don’t piss of the Engineer’s trying to save your property. Any way we worked until after dark to raise the levee and when we returned on Friday morning the river was just 2 inches from going over the fill we had placed the night before. We finished raising it just as the river crested Friday afternoon so the neighborhood was saved.

Got to get back to the battle. Needless to say we have been working a lot of hours but things are starting to settle down some. One other thing for Rex, July 1st Iowa will start enforcing a no smoking ban in all public places. Damm Democrats.

Hope to see you guy’s this fall at Yellow River if you can fit it into your schedule.

Travel well our friends,

Mark Hutchens, P.E.
Civil Engineer II
City of Des Moines
Engineering Department