Iowa's Lost Summer: The Flood of 1993

Dec 31, 2005 (Updated Jan 13, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Real people, real pictures, real heroics.

Cons:Very specific subject.

The Bottom Line: Iowa's Lost Summer: The Flood of 1993 the story of one state's experience in a 'summer of floods' that spread across the entire Midwest that summer of '93.

The people of Iowa are accustomed to the mercurial whim of Mother Nature. Living in a state blessed with a 'four-season' climate provides ample opportunity to experience her moody ways.

Her touch can be as warm as a sunshiny summer day at the beach. Or as uplifting as a spring wildflower pushing its way through the leaf litter at the edge of a bike trail. But her spirit can turn as cold as a January blizzard or as hot and angry as a furious tornado dropping from a dark cloud.

In the spring and summer of 1993 the residents of Iowa learned what happens when Mother Nature turns on all the faucets—'just a little drink for the crops'—and forgets to turn them off.

Published in the fall of 1993, Iowa's Lost Summer: The Flood of 1993 is a product of the Des Moines Register and Tribune's coverage of the floods of 1993. Published while many businesses and families were still recovering from the floods of that long summer, Iowa's Lost Summer captures, in many pictures and fewer words, the true scope of misery that the people of Iowa endured and overcame.

Releasing this book so soon after the events of the summer might seem a rushed decision. But it seems to follow the mindset of a business, a newspaper, that is accustomed to daily deadlines, immediate action, and quick decisions. Fortunately, the decision to publish sooner rather than later lead to a book that celebrates what went right that summer rather than one that wallows in what went wrong and fixing blame on anyone and everyone.

Iowa's Lost Summer: The Flood of 1993 is most of all about the people of Iowa. People stunned by the loss of their most prized and cherished possessions. We find pictures of houses floating free in flooded rivers, baseball parks looking more like swimming ponds than baseball diamonds. Another photograph shows a waterlogged and muddied 'Our Wedding Keepsake' book, permanently ruined. In yet another a man wades a flooded street, carrying his now-rescued dog.

People from outside Iowa also are remembered. President Clinton hugs (prescient or coincidence..?) a teary-eyed young lady at a water distribution site. Jesse Jackson tours a flood-ruined farmstead. Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw all come to broadcast national newscasts from Des Moines, where the water treatment plant was 'knocked out' by flood waters, leaving the city without potable water for nineteen days.

Equally important, Iowa's Lost Summer is about the small people of the state. Pictures of the neighbor whose weekend of National Guard duty turns into a summer-long battle against flood waters by his military unit. The friends that help their neighbors carry salvageable items from their flooded home. Strangers who show up at bridge in Des Moines to help fill sandbags in an ultimately futile attempt to save the city's water-works plant from rising water. Photos of Iowans waiting patiently in line for their turn to use a portable shower unit. Faces of Iowans waiting patiently in line to receive jugs of bottled or trucked-in water.

There are no pictures or tales of people shooting at National Guard helicopters ferrying sandbags to makeshift levees. No tales of looting and burning. No tales of murder and rampage and citizens descending to the basest behaviors.

The photographs and the stories, briefly told, serve as a testament of all that was right with Iowa and Iowans that long, wet summer so long ago. Where people asked their neighbor 'what can I do to help? . . .before they worried about their own problems.

The Bottom Line
Iowa's Lost Summer: The Flood of 1993 is the story of just one state's experience in a 'summer of floods' that spread across the entire Midwest that summer of '93. It is the story of people that offered a hand of assistance rather than sticking a hand out, looking for a handout.

For those that lived through the events of that summer it is a vivid reliving of the time. For those that did not it is a proud testament to the virtues and hard work that make the people of Iowa who they are.

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Certified Lean-n-mean review.

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sleeper's reviews of Everything Iowa, my thoughts on stuff
about my home.

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"Just the facts, ma'am"

Title: Iowa's Lost Summer: The Flood of 1993
Photographers: Des Moines Register staff
Editors: Michael Wegner, Lyle Boone, Tim Cochran
Publisher: Iowa State Press
Copyright: Des Moines Register and Tribune Co., 1993
Pages: 108
ISBN: 0813818095
Ages Recommended: pre-teen to adult
Reference sites:

University Of Akron (OH) webpage:

A 'before and after' photo set showing the water-saturation of the Midwest. A similar picture set is included in this book:

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