The mayor of Des Moines says there’s no need to panic, but officials have asked thousands of people to voluntarily leave their homes and businesses in a wide zone around the Des Moines River. That includes much of downtown Des Moines.
The river cuts a wide swath through the capitol city, from north to south, and officials say it appears the river’s level will surge very close to the top of those levees. Des Moines Public Works director Bill Stowe says the river is expected to start cresting at eight o’clock tonight, and 10 areas around the Des Moines River are now evacuation zones.
"This area, the blue area if you will — the 500-year flood plain — each and every property in that area is at risk," Stowe says, "and we certainly support evacuation of that area."
Officials do not have an estimate of just how many homes and businesses are in the voluntary evacuation area. Downtown businesses were asked to release their employees from work in waves so as not to create traffic congestion.
"There are really, basically, two concerns here and it’s not particularly complicated. One concern is that we’ll overtop the levee. Another concern is that the levee will fail in some area," Stowe says. "…A few days ago we were talking about days and feet. Now we’re talking about inches and hours."