Gilcrest/Jewett endured and conquered The Flood of 1993… — 
It’s hard to believe that ten years ago on July 11th, we endured and conquered the Flood of 1993. It was your basic summer in Iowa. The Des Moines Grand Prix started on Friday, July 9th in downtown Des Moines. The annual Greater Des Moines Home Show opened July 10th, with their special Membership Night the evening before.

Everything seemed fairly normal, just wetter than usual. It had been raining buckets in many parts of Iowa for weeks before this weekend, and we sure didn’t need any more. But then, as many were watching the Grand Prix on Saturday, they noticed that the bottoms of the familiar arched bridges spanning the Des Moines River were slowly being swallowed by the river. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, to our disbelief, the arches disappeared and we were beginning to believe that something serious was happening. Water was rising in the Iowa Cubs’ parking lot. They discovered that it was actually river water pushing back up through the storm sewers.

Des Moines crews rushed in trucks of clay and barricaded the various openings in the downtown levee to seal in the lower downtown basin from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers. Ominous at best, but we still thought that everything was going to be okay. We were in the 500-year flood plain…this area never floods. Then late that Saturday night we saw the water rising knee deep at our Door/Window and Carpet warehouse on 3rd Street. We started calling Gilcrest/Jewett employees to come down to begin moving the inventory out. We loaded many trucks and semi trailers that night and hauled them to higher ground, but there just wasn’t enough time make a large dent in the inventory. By dawn, that entire area was under water and moving north. So we gave up that part of the battle and turned our attention to the main yard and buildings.

Sunday, we were still thinking that it wouldn’t reach the main yard, but in an “abundance of caution”, we ordered sand and bags from the City. Employees called friends, relatives, customers, and suppliers to come down to help sandbag. It was amazing to see all of the people who came to help us. And what a contrast to the senses as it was a beautiful, clear, still day, and yet the floodwaters were rising. Nevertheless, we thought that we had better sand bag around our main building. As the day wore on, we couldn’t believe the reports that water was still rising in the lower downtown basin. As we learned later, the City had forgotten to complete the sealing of the levee behind the Central Campus building near Fleur Drive and there was no stopping the Raccoon River.

By dark on Sunday, we realized that there was nothing more we could do. With the main building surrounded with sandbags and the water 2-3 feet deep and rising, we all went home for some rest. Ironically enough, the water eventually found its way around the bags by coming under the cement slabs and percolating up into the building.

Having retreated from the second battle, we met early Monday morning at Norwest Bank at the corner of 4th and Court to set up Dispatch. This is the incredible part of the story. Due to the energy, commitment and pride of all of our employees, we never missed a promised delivery. The Ankeny Branch started filling orders while we began to tow trucks out of the floodwaters. We rented the old Lighthouse Marine building on Delaware and had a functional branch set up by the end of the week. During the week, we would take the admin staff to the main building by boat and hoist them through an awning window so they could go upstairs and run the computer system.

As we pressed on, the water finally began to recede. Tuesday, July 20th, we held our first Tuesday Delaware Sales Meeting and the company was in the process of having a record month of sales. One month later after mucking out, cleaning, sanitizing, restocking, and repairing equipment we were carpeting the offices and ready to move in. This was weeks and months earlier t

Locations:
Altoona
5660 NE Hubbell Ave.
515-957-0027
Learn More>
Coralville
758 Camp Cardinal Blvd
319-338-0089
Learn More>
Marion
3115 7th Avenue
P.O. Box 347
319-377-1593
Learn More>
Waukee
1100 SE Alice’s Road
P.O. Box 1000
515-987-3600
Learn More>
Click for the BBB Business Review of this Building Materials in Waukee IA