Friday, June 27, 2008

Des Moines Flooding

By Mark Hutchens

Looks like you had a fun vacation this spring, I really enjoyed the pictures and the blogs. Jayne and I are suppose to be on vacation at Yellow River this week but as you have seen in the news we had a pretty good flood here in Des Moines. With me being employed as a Civil Engineer for the City of Des Moines and needed to help in the flood fighting and now recovery efforts the City has postponed our vacation until July 11th – 20th. More on the flood in a bit, but first an update on Yellow River. I have been talking to people up there and the park has been spared the worst of the flooding and everything is pretty much normal. Apparently all the trout hatcheries were hit hard by the floods so the fishing is not going to be very good this year. We were up there for mother’s day weekend and it was good to see everyone and get into the mushrooms. Grace and Charlie were not camping up there yet but did drive up for a visit. They are up there now and plan to stay the rest of the summer.

That brings me to our fall plans and from what I remember of your BB08 schedule I think you might be in the Yellow River area when we are up there in September. We plan on going up September 5th for two weeks, coming back home on September 21st. I have talked to Charlie and we plan on having his birthday turkey and potluck dinner on September 12th. Rex helped me cook a 20 pounder over the camp fire two years ago and I could use the help again this year. Rex and I had plan for cooking the turkey, the bird would be done when Rex and I were close to being done with the beer. The plan worked out well. Anyway let me know if you guys think you can make it this year to help with the bird and of course the beer.

Now for an update on the flood. Des Moines faired far better than the poor sons of bitches in Cedar Rapids and the rest of SE Iowa. Every flood is different, our flood of record was the 1993 flood and this time around we exceeded those levels in some areas and were slightly below them in other parts of the City. At the height of the flood the rivers were up to 25 feet above their normal elevations and we had more water flowing through downtown Des Moines than flows down the Mississippi at Marquette when that river is at normal elevation. Since the 1993 flood we have made huge improvements to our levee and pumping systems and we only saw only about 5% of the property damage this time around when compared to 1993. We had one levee breach in the Birdland neighborhood that flood 60-70 some homes and business and North High School. We also had inland flooding from our sewer system that flooded the Court Avenue Area.

Here is a picture of City Hall, my office is on the third floor. We had water in the basement and the sewer backed up on June 11th so they moved us out to the Airport on the 12th. Other City offices moved to the new library downtown. We are still out at the Airport but hope to get back to City Hall this weekend. The plants you see in the foreground are the top side of the Civic Gardens. The gardens actually extend about 100 feet from the building and there is a walking path leading down to the wall along the river but the area was completely under water.

This is looking west from City Hall across the river into downtown.

The YMCA is across the river from City Hall and the Grand Avenue bridge is in the foreground. We had to close all the downtown bridges over the river and place closures on the approaches to keep the river out of the City.

The old library is on the west side of the river. The rusty stuff you see right above the water is some sheet piling that I installed two years ago to increase the height of the levee. If we had not placed the sheet piling the river would have overtopped the old levee flooding most of downtown.

This is the Ampatheater just south of City Hall. There is a stage below the arch that is about 15’ under water. They usually have concerts here in the summer, postponed for a while.

This is Robert D. Ray Drive on the opposite side of City Hall from the river. As you can see the fishing in the street might be better than it is up at Yellow River.

Our sewer system was overwhelmed and basically blew itself apart. This is a sink hole in a church parking lot at SE 6th Ave. The sewer failures are causing the material to be sucked down the sewers creating the sink holes. This one eventually grew even more and swallowed the street. We have been chasing hundreds of sinkholes throughout the City and trying to repair them.