Black Earth, Mazomanie, Cross Plains residents evacuated due to record flooding

Highway 14 between Black Earth and Mazomanie
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BLACK EARTH, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane County Emergency Management officials say Black Earth Creek flooding has hit a new record high flood stage and there's no timeline yet on when a bridge over Black Earth Creek will be repaired, allowing that portion of Hwy. 14 to re-open.

There's a "partial washout" on the bridge, and standing water on the roadway, shutting down Hwy. 14 in both directions, according to Josh Wescott, Dane County Emergency Management.

The high flood waters prompted evacuations in Black Earth just before 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21, said a spokesperson with the Black Earth Joint Fire District.

Fire crews told NBC15 they had to evacuate almost the entire eastern side of the village because of the flooding.

"I've never seen anything like this-- talked to a lot of community members here, too, that have been around 50, 60, 70 years and they've never seen water like what we had. We've definitely had issues with the creek, but nothing like this," said Dan Machotka, assistant fire chief of Black Earth Joint Fire District, a volunteer-led fire department.

Water rescues continued throughout Tuesday and residents with no other place to go were taken to emergency shelters at Mazomanie Elementary School, Glacier Creek Elementary in Cross Plains and Madison West High School.

"We had a lot of reports about people being stranded on Hwy. 14, so we had to go out and try to rescue people from the rising waters and then, after we did most of those rescues, we had to come into town and start working on our own village here," Machotka said. "In a matter of 20-30 minutes, the water was rising by the feet, so it rose really quickly in town here."

Some of the firefighters lost their own cars responding to the call for help.

"We responded at the station and didn't have any threats here and then we got back to the station and we actually lost about six cars to the floodwaters. We weren't able to get out-- some were able to move about a block or so, but then the motors had problems, so it was definitely a struggle for some of our members," Mahatka said.

Just a few hundred yards from the damaged bridge, The Shoe Box, which is billed as one of the largest in the U.S. and a regional attraction, was also hit hard by flooding and is closed.

"It was something, and it still is, but we'll be fine. We'll survive," said Steve Schmidtt, owner of The Shoe Box.

The store sits right on the banks of the Black Earth Creek, and Schmidtt says in his decades of owning the business he's never seen this kind of flooding. He was grateful to the neighbors who helped him Tuesday to ensure he can be back in business soon.

"It's unbelievable. It's crazy. I've been here 51 years and we've never missed a day here as far as opening because of something like this," Schmidtt said. "It's okay, I guess. 51 years and miss one day. I feel bad for the customers, but the sun is going to shine. We'll be fine tomorrow."

He said the water was waist high in the basement of their Bargain Box warehouse across the street and there was nine inches of water inside the retail store. Most of the damaged shoes will be donated because they are still wearable.

"As soon as we opened up the loading gate here all of the water rushed out, thank heavens," Schmidtt said.

Emergency management conducted reverse 911 calls to people in Black Earth and Mazomanie telling people to leave their homes. They were instructed to go to the town hall/fire department. People in Mazomanie received that call around 6:15 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 20. Officials made the call to people in Black Earth earlier in the evening.

Wescott confirmed the calls to help stranded people Tuesday morning. One person was trapped in their house and others were trapped on the roofs of their cars.

Westcott also said a building collapsed in Cross Plains on Park Street after the basement fell in. There were no further details on the type of building and no injuries were reported.