One year later, Dane County Sheriff reflects on historic flooding

VERONA, Wis. (WMTV) -- One year after the historic floods in Aug. 2018, the Dane County Sheriff is reflecting on the department's response, and the lessons that were learned.

Dave Mahoney, Dane County Sheriff, said he can clearly recall exactly where he was when the rain started to fall.

"I remember because I was at home, I was monitoring the media and the weather predictions, and saw the torrential rain begin," Mahoney said. "So I got in my squad car, went out to see what the conditions were around the county, and began hearing of incidents of flooding and the volume and numbers of people who were out in the weather who became stranded."

He said despite the difficult and dangerous elements, the department performed well, and with ingenuity. For example, he said one deputy stopped in a local hotel in Verona to pick up flotation devices from the pool that they could use to help stranded drivers.

"I think today we're better prepared having experienced that, we made sure that in the subsequent budget we asked for some of the resources that were needed," he said.

Mahoney also said that the teamwork between community members and law enforcement and emergency personnel was also helpful.

"It really goes to the core of this community that it is a community wide effort to provide partnership between our community and our law enforcement," said Mahoney.

One of those partnerships was with Mason Dorn, a Verona man who used his boat to help rescue a woman who had been driving on Highway PD off the top of her car when the Sugar River overflowed.

Dorn said he was home when he saw police arrive at a neighbor's home. He learned the police were looking for a boat, and he volunteered his air boat, which he uses for bow fishing.

However, by the time Dorn hooked up his boat and brought it to Highway PD at the Sugar River, he said the man in need of help there had already been rescued. That's when he took his boat back home, and went to bed.

"At two in the morning, three in the morning, something like that, they had called me and needed the boat back down there because another lady had gone off the road," Dorn said. "That's when we dunked the boat in off the side of the highway and went out there and grabbed her off the roof of her car."

Dorn and emergency responders were able to bring the woman, who was sitting on her submerged car, back to safety. Dorn said he was surprised to see the Sugar River, what he describes as normally looking like a little stream or creek, overflowing its banks.

"Just a lot of muddy water with debris floating through it, the current was pretty strong. It was kind of a mess out there," Dorn said. "I've lived by this river for 10 years and it's never ever been like that before."

Dorn said when the opportunity came up to help, he knew he had to step in. But he hopes that situation won't happen again.

"We just don't usually get rain like that, that quick, that hard," he said. "Hopefully we don't ever again."