The 25th anniversary of one of central Iowa’s most devastating natural disasters — the Flood of 1993 — is approaching, and Jasper County Conservation Board’s Older Wiser Livelier Senior (OWLS) program is working with the Jasper County Historical Society to bring local accounts of the flood to the public.
OWLS hosted Jasper County Historical Museum Executive Director Joseph Otto to preview the museum’s new Flood of 1993 exhibit, which opened at the museum last week.
Wednesday’s presentation was part of OWLS’ monthly program series, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Jasper County Armory/Annex Building, 1030 W. Second St. S. in Newton.
Otto, who was 9 years old when the waters came, told the Newton Daily News in December he’s reached out to residents affected by the flood and has been collecting oral historical accounts for the exhibit from as many residents as possible. Exhibit curators have also been transcribing, storing and preserving the narratives in the museum’s library as a permanent addition.
Alongside preserving the personal accounts, Otto collected many items for an exhibit. He received a box full of flood-related items from Skip Richards, member of the historical society. Richards was a postal worker at the time of the floods. His box contained photos from his commute, comedic T-shirts related to the floods, Des Moines Register newspapers from the time and a VHS tape that shows KCCI’s coverage of the flood.
Otto said the interviews include victims, news anchors and a former Methodist minister who became a coordinator for the relief effort, running the operation out of a school.
The Colfax native said he personally remembers seeing “toads the size of a fingernail” all over the city soccer fields and more water than he had seen in his entire life.
“I walked down a field lane towards the water and started swimming in it, which is insane anyone would do that,” Otto said.
Parker Creech, a Newton Senior High School junior, is one of two high school interns working at the museum, and even though he was not yet born when the flood occurred, he said the fact he could learn about the event and interact with survivors was an amazing experience.
Creech and his fellow intern Lisa Bresgott will also be speaking as a part of the OWLS presentation, detailing how they built the exhibit, as well as the benefits of having it available to the community.
The exhibit opening falls on the 25th anniversary of the flood and is split between two focuses — how the flood affected Jasper County and how it affected Iowa as a whole.
The presentation Wednesday gave an overview of the flood event, how it affected towns like Colfax and Reasnor and how the floods impacted the entire state.
Creech said he was surprised how many of his classmates do not know about the natural disaster.
“Growing up in small-town Newton, Iowa there’s not much real impactful history here,” Creech said. “While local roots may run deep, Maytag was about as close as we get into the mainstream history books.”
Otto showed a sample of the artifacts on display during the OWLS program. Otto will come back for a second presentation at the museum itself. He hopes the OWLS program will spark more interest in the exhibit and draw people to come see the artifacts first hand — artifacts from the summer Iowa was under water.
The Jasper County Historical Museum is open daily 1 to 4 p.m., May 1 through Sept. 30.
Contact Samuel Nusbaum at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or at firstname.lastname@example.org