About 250 homes and businesses north of downtown Des Moines, as well as Des Moines North High School, were swamped early Saturday when a levee in the Birdland Neighborhood was breached by the surging Des Moines River.
Des Moines Public Works director Bill Stowe says the Birdland levee was built in the 1950s and was, by far, the weakest in the city. "We will continue to monitor the levee system throughout the Des Moines area…but our view is with river levels continuing to recede, even though they are at extraordinarily high stages, the levee system will be safe," Stowe says.
Residents and businesses in the now-flooded area had been asked to leave midday Friday, so when the levee broke only a handful of people were in the area.
Volunteers from as far away as Colorado and South Dakota trekked to Des Moines to try to help out. Shannon Cofield, president of the United Way of Central Iowa, has been coordinating volunteer efforts in the capitol city. "We’ve had a family as far away as Arkansas that came to volunteer today. We had the Florida State track team…come to volunteer and when we shared with them that volunteer needs had been met they stood in a circle and prayed for our community," Cofield says. The Florida State track team is in Des Moines for the NCAA track and field championships which are being held at Drake University’s Stadium.