Wisconsin's Lake Delton washes away
LAKE DELTON, Wis. -- One of the most scenic getaways in the Midwest is devastated. Weekend rains of biblical proportions dumped so much water into Lake Delton that it literally burst its banks. Tens of thousands of gallons of lake water barreled ...
LAKE DELTON, Wis. -- One of the most scenic getaways in the Midwest is devastated.
Weekend rains of biblical proportions dumped so much water into Lake Delton that it literally burst its banks.
Tens of thousands of gallons of lake water barreled through the woods, taking with it a roadway, several houses, boats, fish and lake bed. It emptied into the nearby Wisconsin River and was gone in hours.
On Tuesday morning, some 24 hours after the catastrophe, the 267-acre lake is nearly drained. The lake is a muddy moonscape of cracked earth. Fish bake in the sun, flopping until their deaths. Mounds of dead fish are piled high. The shoreline is jagged and cracked. Boats hang in the air suspended by what is left of the docks. In parts, the little water that is left meanders like a silent brook. The roadway and earth that held the river back is now a canyon.
"Just this weekend it was full of fish, full of boaters, full of life and now it's gone," said Harland Tourdoy who has been fishing these waters for a half-century.
Standing on beachhead, where lake waters used to lap at his feet, Tourdoy watched as a lone canoeist attempted to navigated a narrow channel that was left of the lake center. "I wonder if it'll ever be the same," he said.
Lake Delton is nature's signature landscape for the Wisconsin Dells. While the region draws thousands to its indoor and outdoor water parks, Delton was the natural draw for water skiing, fishing and other recreation.
Condominiums, hotels, and mom and pop homes dot the jagged shoreline that offered serene vistas of the lakes. State officials vow to refill the lake as soon as possible. But locals are skeptical.
"When will I ever get my view back?" asked Sue Schultz, who lives on a bluff above the lake.
Until Monday morning, residents were worried about flooding. Schultz's neighbors were sandbagging, worrying that a nearby dam could bust, sending the lake to high levels. Instead, Schultz watched incredulously as the lake drained Monday morning.
"I was in a state of shock," she said. "I wondered where it was all going."
Within hours, Schultz's view was of a giant mud pit.
"Never in my wildest imagination could I dream of seeing this," she said.
A dozen workers worked Tuesday to stretch a temporary sewer line across the 200-yard breach where the lake had washed out a highway embankment, forcing a new channel to the Wisconsin River.
Rushing water had ripped apart underground sewer lines as it poured through the breach, and Tuesday morning raw sewage was still pouring out of the pipes and running downstream.
Andy Morton, DNR supervisor of the lower Wisconsin River basin, said Dell Creek, which fed the lake, was now rushing through the breach, making it difficult to plug the gaping hole. The first step will be to reroute the creek back onto the lake bed, perhaps by building a berm and reshaping the lake bottom.