The Flood of ’93 ISU Stays Afloat

The Flood of ’93 ISU Stays Afloat


The summer of 1993, a summer etched in Iowan’s
memories for years to come. [thunder] On Thursday evening, July 8th, rain
started to fall in central Iowa. Not an uncommon occurrence this Spring. Iowa had been especially wet, and in the last
two months the region had not seen more than two consecutive days of dry weather. The ground was saturated, rivers and streams
were high, although far from flooded. Still ISU had been on flood alert for a month. Predicted heavy rains, north of Ames, prompted
officials to take further precautions against the expected rise of Squaw Creek. Some students weren’t so prepared. “We were watching a movie when the storm warning
sounded. So, I of course went outside to look at it
and came back in and everything was fine. And then about 15 to 20 minutes later we noticed
water coming in under the front door so we got towels in front of it. And then we were watching TV again, flipped
on the bedroom light and it was coming in the bedroom and look back over here and it
was coming in here. It was coming in the kitchen, it was just
coming in every room. That point we just got everything we could,
everything up as high as we could, and went and stayed at a friend’s house.” By 7 o’clock the next morning, Squaw Creek
which had been 3 feet deep, had risen to more than 16 feet. Stange Road. 13th Street. 6th street. Lincoln Way. South 4th. Elwood Drive. The campus was virtually cut off from the
city of Ames. President Jischke cancelled classes and advised ISU
employees to come to work only if it was safe to do so. Two hours later by 9 A.M. the Squaw
crested at a record 18 and a half feet. More than 11 feet about flood stage. Little Squaw Creek was a raging river. Flooding a third of the campus. The winds that Thursday night had come as
fast and as hard as the waters. Gusting up to 77 mph they tore through Veenker memorial
golf course and Pammel court, although no tornadoes were reported others weren’t so
sure. Miraculously no one was injured, either here
or anywhere throughout the entire area of flooding on campus. Student families were relocated to dormitories
and other student apartments. 8 of the 9 units hit, would be demolished
as part of the University’s planned removal program of the WWII housing. More than a mile away on the opposite side
of campus, concrete retaining walls in Cyclone stadium were literally blown out on the NW
and SE corners. Oddly enough, Jack Trice field was untouched. The major damage however came from the unprecedented
water levels in Squaw Creek. As much as 10 inches of rain had drenched
it’s watershed upstream. Downstream at Veenker memorial golf course, water
completely covered these bridge pylons. The rush of water inundated bridge approaches,
and covered 30 to 40 acres of tees, greens, and fairways with a half inch of silt and
clay. The computerized sprinkler system was covered. The Maintenance shop took on 6 feet of water. Across the road, University Village residents
watched helplessly as the water rose into the Administration building and 40 student
apartments. ISU’s electrical generating plant escaped
the tide, but only because workers had spent most of the night sandbagging the cooling
tower pumps. If the cooling towers went down, the generators
would have been turned off. However, underground steam and condensate
lines were completely submerged for several days. The steam tunnels beneath the intramural fields
serve the ISU center and College of Veterinary Medicine. Repair and replacement of the utility system
may reach 2 and a half million dollars. At the nearby, Recreation Athletic facility,
sandbagging prevented all but 3 inches of water from entering. Damage was confined mainly to the track and
artificial turf. More significant damage was to the oak floors
of the nine handball and racketball courts. No student residences were damaged at the
Maple Willow Larch complex, however 4 feet of water covered the commons and food service
areas. 10 dump truck loads of contaminated food had
to be carted away. All food related equipment had to be cleaned,
restored to operation, re-cleaned and sanitized. Concrete floors beneath the walk-in freezers
had buckled under the tremendous water pressure from below. Mechanical and utility rooms with their connecting
tunnels to other buildings and the complex sustained extensive damage from total immersion. The Iowa State Center was hit hardest by the
flood waters with estimated damages of almost 4 million dollars. Although it’s located on a flood plain, the
Center had been designed to withstand water levels at least a foot over the 100 year flood. However, Center workers were not complacent. They sandbagged all Thursday night, but as
water quickly rose above record levels it was difficult to keep up. At Scheman’s Continuing Education Center
it rose a foot and half over the concrete flood retaining walls. Breeching the front doors and floor retention
doors around the building. Water and muck filled the entire basement
and 4 and a half feet of the ground floor. Including the first 4 rows of Benton auditorium,
and a 9 foot Steinway Grand piano. ISU Center offices in Scheman were moved
to the lobby of CyStevens auditorium on higher ground. There they could dry out and continue to reschedule
or move to other locations approaching center events. Both Stevens and Fischer theaters escaped
the surging waters and became emergency headquarters for center operations and a command post for
sorting out disaster priorities. One priority was Hilton Colosseum, Center
workers had built an impenetrable dam at the East loading ramp, and it held. But early Friday morning tremendous water
pressure undercut it, blowing out the ramp floor and forcing it’s way onto the Colosseum
floor. 14 feet of water filled the the 3rd row of
the park. Althetic director Jean Smith called Hilton
the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. In lower level storage areas, mechanical,
athletic and entertainment equipment were totally submerged; including the basketball
floor and ice making equipment. Not long after the flood, total damages to
the University came to an estimated 7.7 million dollars. Later estimates will appear as officials dig
deeper into the problems. Efforts are underway to minimize flooding prospects
in the future. All affected building were either above the
100 year flood level or had been designed to withstand waters a foot above the 100 year
flood. But people along the Squaw, the Skunk, the
Des Moines, the Missouri, and the Mississippi rivers will testify that the flood of ’93
was substantially more than the 100 year flood.

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