BILL NOVAK, ROB SCHULTZ and CHRIS HUBBUCH
Wisconsin State Journal
7 min to read
An epic rainfall swept one man to his death, washed out bridges, swamped homes, cars and businesses, and marooned dozens of shoppers overnight at a Middleton discount store Monday.
The flash floods took many by surprise, forcing emergency responders and ordinary citizens into extraordinary efforts to rescue those caught in the rushing water.
“In my mind, last night was nothing but heroes working every single moment to save lives,” Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said Tuesday.
The National Weather Service estimated 14.33 inches of rain fell in Cross Plains which, if confirmed, would be the heaviest rainfall for a 24-hour period ever recorded in Wisconsin. The official record for rainfall over 24 hours was 11.72 inches near Mellen in June 1946.
Madison officially recorded 3.92 inches of rain at the Dane County Regional Airport on the North Side, a record for Aug. 20, though rain continued to fall after midnight.
The deluge caused widespread flooding in Mazomanie and Cross Plains, washed out a highway bridge in Black Earth as well as a nearby railroad bridge and closed roads throughout southern Wisconsin.
One man was killed when his car stalled in high water at about 9 p.m. Monday near Chapel Hill Road and Regis Road on Madison’s West Side.
Two of the vehicle’s occupants were pulled to safety, but the third, a man in his 70s, was swept away, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said. His body was found Tuesday morning.
“He had gotten out of the car, but the current was very powerful,” DeSpain said. “Despite heroic efforts, they were unable to keep him from being sucked under the car.”
Countless others were rescued by law enforcement officers, firefighters and individuals throughout the night, Mahoney said. That included one man who was pulled from his car by two sheriff’s deputies on Highway PD near the intersection with Timber Road in the town of Springdale.
After the man called 911 to say he was close to drowning in his car, deputies Rob Schiro and Nathan Katzemeyer tried but failed to reach him with ropes, life preservers and other equipment, Mahoney said. The deputies then commandeered a boat from a nearby house, drove it to the car and pulled the man out of a back window.
“He literally had just enough air for his nose and mouth before he was pulled out,” Mahoney said.
Minutes later, just down the road, Katzemeyer and a resident of a nearby home rescued a woman who was standing through the sunroof of her car, which was submerged in about 10 feet of water, Dane County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said.
Western Dane County endured the heaviest rainfall. Black Earth Creek reached a record high level Monday night and continued to rise Tuesday, washing out a bridge on Highway 14 near Highway 78.
Firefighters and EMS workers from several volunteer groups worked through the night to evacuate hundreds of residents from homes and apartment buildings in Cross Plains, Black Earth and Mazomanie.
Others were fighting a blaze caused by a lightning strike that destroyed a residence on Hillpoint Road, said Assistant Chief Steve Buss of the Cross Plains-Town of Berry Fire Department.
“We’re lucky there was no loss of life,” Buss said.
One firefighter was injured when he was shocked by a nearby lightning strike in Cross Plains, Buss said. Buss said he was expected to be released from a hospital Tuesday.
Sven Krause, owner of the Midwest Microcar Museum Vintage Cycle Room in Mazomanie said flooding caused an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in damage to the museum’s contents.
The microcar museum opened in 2015 in a historic, brick building to display Krause’s father’s microcars — oddly shaped and tiny automobiles that were popular in post-World War II Europe.
In Black Earth, Shoe Box owner Steve Schmitt said about half his inventory of 875,000 pairs of shoes were damaged by water that reached his store and two nearby buildings. Schmitt said Tuesday was the first non-scheduled store closing in 51 years.
“We’ll be open (Wednesday),” he said. “It’ll be a mess but we’ll be fine. We’re just happy nobody was hurt.”
State of emergency
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for Dane County Tuesday evening and said he planned to tour the area on Wednesday.
“The state is ready to assist in the recovery efforts taking place throughout Dane County after yesterday’s storms,” Walker said. “I have no doubt the resiliency of Wisconsin communities will be on display during this response.”
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, who also declared a local state of emergency, urged private property owners with damage to call 211 and encouraged businesses that have experienced flood damage to contact their local unit of government to document losses in preparation for disaster assistance.
The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army opened shelters at Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains, Mazomanie Elementary School and West High School in Madison.
Dozens of roads, including sections of Highway 14, remained closed Tuesday, and abandoned vehicles littered underpasses and intersections in low-lying areas across the west metro area. Authorities said it could be days before some roads reopen.
The heavy rain tipped over fuel tanks at Morey Airport in Middleton. One of the tanks contained 1,000 gallons of jet fuel; the other held 500 gallons of gasoline. Officials said the gas tank was leaking, but the gasoline was being collected in a containment berm.
Storm sewers overwhelmed
The heaviest flooding in Madison occurred on the West and Southwest sides. Areas most affected included McKenna Boulevard near Elver Park, Mineral Point Road in the Gammon Road area, Mineral Point Road at Junction Road, Odana Road in the Grand Canyon Drive area, and Pleasant View Road around Valley View Road.
Some streets were open but still showed signs of flooding. Debris was visible on the underside of vehicles parked along Midvale Boulevard.
On University Avenue, Jeff Jensen was cleaning out the bays of his garage, Car Care Clinic, which took on about 6 inches of water Monday night.
Jensen said his parking lot regularly floods when the storm sewers can’t keep up with heavy rains and passing vehicles slosh through.
“The waves are what do all the damage,” he said. “It’s been up to the door but not this bad,” he said as he hosed debris from his parking lot.
The Spirit Mart gas station at 2801 University Ave. was still without power at 8:35 a.m., during what manager Rama Sapkota said is normally one of the busiest times for the store, which had about 2 inches of water on the floors.
“So many people ask me, ‘What is going on?’” Sapkota said. “No power.”
Stranded in Middleton
Large swaths of Middleton were still under water Tuesday.
Dozens of shoppers and employees had to spend the night at the Costco store on Deming Way after floodwaters left the building an island surrounded by a lake of swamped cars, according to an employee who declined to be identified.
Sameer Kamat of Middleton said he got home from work and decided to make the half-mile trip to Costco. By the time he left, around 8 p.m., the roads were under water.
“Cars were floating around here,” he said, gesturing at Greenway Boulevard outside the Fairfield Inn and Suites, where he sought refuge in a first-floor hallway until rising water forced him to head upstairs.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” Kamat said as he retrieved possessions from his flooded Honda CR-V Tuesday.
Caryn Daane of Milwaukee was in town for an insurance industry conference. After the hotel lost power she wandered outside to see what was going on. A motorist who was rescued from floodwaters on Greenway Boulevard and a hotel guest whose first-floor room was flooded ended up spending the night in her third-floor room.
“We had a little sleepover,” she said.
Daane said she watched the water rise around her Jeep Cherokee until only the windshield and roof were visible.
Nico Meyer of Atlanta and Erika Botes, who was visiting from South Africa, were eating dinner nearby at P.F. Chang’s when the water began rising.
Meyer said they attempted to drive to the Country Inn and Suites across the street, but “it was just a flood.”
They retreated to the restaurant, where they stayed until about 11:30 p.m. With water lapping at the door, Meyer said about a dozen guests formed a human chain, holding hands as they waded through waist-deep water back to the hotel, which had no electricity but was dry.
Mike and Loretta Polhill were heading home to Freeport, Illinois, after having dinner with friends on Old Sauk Road at about 7 p.m. but pulled into the hotel parking lot to escape the rising water.
“It was the scariest trip ever,” Loretta Polhill said. “We couldn’t even see the road.”
Marne Renn of Tomahawk watched the water rise around the nearby Costco from her room on the third floor of the hotel. Standing in the muddy parking lot waiting for a ride, Renn said the flood brought out a spirit of camaraderie among the guests.
“One guy opened his room,” she said. “Everyone helped everyone.”
State Journal reporters Barry Adams and madison.com editor Jeff Richgels contributed to this report.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. An earlier version misstated the unofficial rainfall total in Cross Plains after theNational Weather Service office in Sullivan said a weather observer misread his rain gauge. The correct total should have been 14.33 inches.]
University of Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus was charged Monday with second- and third-degree sexual assault of two intoxicated women who said he sexually assaulted both of them, and said that Cephus and his roommate, teammate Danny Davis, laughed and took photos of the women, according to a criminal complaint.
Cephus, a 20-year-old junior who was expected to be the program’s top receiver this season, announced Saturday he was taking a leave of absence from the team because he anticipated charges being filed by the Dane County District Attorney’s Office.
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez announced Monday after the charges were filed that Cephus has been suspended from the team for violating the Student-Athlete Discipline Policy. The suspension bars him from team practices and games.
Cephus will appear in court on Thursday.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, asked Monday whether Davis, another of the team’s top wide receivers, might also face charges connected to the incident, said, “I don’t think I can answer that right now.”
UW had no comment regarding Davis.
According to the complaint, Cephus told investigators that he and one of the women had sex, but “it was all good. She was all into it,” the complaint states. He said he also had sex with the other woman. He at first denied taking any photos, but then said one was taken but was quickly deleted.
The third-degree sexual assault charge carries up to 10 years of combined prison and extended supervision. The second-degree sexual assault charge carries a 40-year maximum.
Cephus tweeted on Saturday he’s been “wrongfully accused of unlawful conduct” and “is innocent of any allegations associated with this consensual relationship.”
According to the complaint:
Police met one of the women at Meriter Hospital about 4:30 a.m. on April 22, and when the initial officer entered her room, he noticed that it smelled heavily of alcohol. The woman was barely able to lift her head and never opened her eyes during her interview, Officer Eric McCarthy noted. At one point she had to stop to throw up.
The woman identified Cephus as the person who she said had assaulted her, at his apartment on Spring Street.
The woman said that she had been introduced to Cephus by a mutual friend the day before, and he asked if she and her friends wanted to meet up later. He said he was going to be at the Double U, a campus-area bar. After that, he said, they could hang out at his apartment.
She told police that after getting a text message from Cephus about 11:30 p.m., she and her friends went to the Double U on 620 University Ave. She said that the second woman was already very drunk at the Double U when she introduced her to Cephus, who “seemed like he was a gentleman.” She said he was sober, and refused some of her drink because he was driving.
The woman also told police that she was “dying,” meaning very drunk. She said she and the other woman were equally drunk when Cephus drove them to his apartment.
The woman said she wasn’t sure how it happened, but she remembered that both she and her friend were naked and that Cephus was assaulting them. She said she couldn’t move, and “literally thought I was going in and out of consciousness.”
Cephus also tried to get the two women to have sex with one another, the woman told police.
At one point she woke up on the floor and saw Cephus and Davis taking pictures of her and laughing as she struggled to get up. She said she told Cephus how to delete photos.
The woman showed Madison police Detective Julie Johnson text messages that she sent to a friend while in Cephus’ bed, and two of them read, “Raped.”
The woman said that the other woman was so out of it that she looked “possessed,” and that her “eyes rolled back.” She said the other woman was hard to understand when she spoke.
The second woman, interviewed by police, said she was drinking at the Double U and was so intoxicated she doesn’t remember whether she was actually introduced to Cephus. She said she has only a fleeting memory of being in Cephus’ car, then sprinting out of his apartment around 2:30 a.m.
“I don’t remember getting home,” she told Johnson. “I don’t remember walking into my apartment. I don’t remember anything else.”
She said the next day she talked on the phone with the first woman, while she was at Meriter Hospital, and the first woman insisted that she have a rape kit done. The woman told police she did not remember having sex with anyone, though.
“I was shocked because I have no memory of it,” she told police. “I was grossed out. We don’t know this guy. I was so very confused. I was thinking how could this happen? I know I would never consent to have sex with someone I didn’t know.”
Davis, who was at the Double U while the two women were there, said he remembered that both were very drunk and that one of them sat on the floor in the middle of the bar and had to be convinced to get up.
Under the Student-Athlete Discipline Policy, during his suspension Cephus will remain on official squad lists and may continue to use the sports medicine facility, the academic support center and the weight training room.
With Madison’s lakes already brimming and its storm sewers backing up onto streets, the forecast of more rain Tuesday posed a renewed risk of flash flooding.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Dane County through Wednesday morning as a storm system threatened to drop several more inches of rain Tuesday.
“If that rain event can stay at about an inch or so, we’ll be looking pretty good going into the Labor Day weekend,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said Monday.
Soglin said the area would need five to six dry days before it could absorb another heavy rainfall.
But dry weather isn’t in the forecast.
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to have any prolonged period of dry weather in the immediate future,” said Andy Boxell, a weather service meteorologist.
Boxell said potentially torrential rain expected on Tuesday should move through the area quickly — unlike the slow-moving, record downpour that drenched Dane County on Aug. 20 and created the flood conditions have kept streets closed and volunteers filling sandbags.
There may be more rain off and on through the weekend, Boxell said. Next week also looks to be humid and prone to precipitation, he said.
The Tuesday storms posed the threat of flash flooding across much of southern Wisconsin in areas where the ground is saturated and streams are swollen.
“Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation,” the Weather Service said. “Monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should flash flood warnings be issued.”
Meanwhile, Madison and Dane County officials reported that they’ve made progress in handling the large amount of water that is already in the lakes and storm sewers.
Several streets that had been closed were opened and lake levels appeared to be stabilizing after hitting historically high levels.
Thick growths of lake weeds in the Yahara River south of Lake Monona had been slowing the flow of water downstream.
“County lakes staff used 10 lake weed harvesters to remove over 270 loads of aquatic plants the past several days,” said county spokeswoman Stephanie Miller. “That has doubled the flow of water leaving the chain of lakes, and more water is now leaving the chain than entering it.”
Rain that fell on Sunday left Lake Mendota up three-quarters of an inch, Lake Monona down a half-inch and Lake Kegonsa up 1.3 inches.
“The instability of the weather remains a concern,” Miller said. “We urge residents to be vigilant and keep informed of weather updates and street closures.”
After the initial Aug. 20 downpour, Lake Mendota rose rapidly, and county engineers worried that it could flow around the Tenney dam, which keeps the lake about 5 feet higher than Lake Monona, which is downstream on the other side of Madison’s Isthmus.
If the dam failed, the water would flow out of control onto the Isthmus. To lower the risk, engineers opened the dam gates to move water quickly downstream and drop Lake Mendota’s level.
But that caused the Yahara River to rise enough to force water back into storm sewers that normally drain the Isthmus into the river. Water backed up into streets, forcing detours.
By Sunday, Lake Mendota was low enough that the flow through the dam could be restricted, allowing some of the floodwaters on Isthmus streets to drain back into the river.
The weed-cutting should speed the flow of water through Lake Monona and on toward the Rock River near Janesville, said city engineer Greg Fries.
Before Lake Mendota rises too much, however, the Tenney floodgates will be opened again, Fries said. But by that time — if the weed-cutting works as planned — Lake Monona and the Yahara River will be a little lower than they were last week, and the street flooding won’t be quite as bad as it was, he said.
Over a period of weeks, the flow through the Tenney floodgates will be decreased and increased, causing street flooding to appear and reappear, but each time the levels in the streets, the river and the lakes should fall a little lower, Fries said.
“The bad news for the public is that it means conditions are going to look a little more like a yo-yo than what you usually see with a flood,” Fries said.
Even after the streets stay dry, there is so much water in the storm sewers that it will be many weeks before it can be sent downstream, he said.
It’s hard to tell how long that will take because it depends on how much more rain falls.
More homes at risk
City officials posted a revised flood risk map in the Isthmus that shows new risk areas for flash flooding during an intense rainstorm.
About 1,000 homes have been added to the flash flood risk areas, in the Starkweather Creek area, and flyers were being distributed to those homes on Monday.
On Friday, 1,700 homes received flyers warning of the potential for flooding, mainly in the Isthmus.
Officially, 0.83 of an inch of rain was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Sunday. For updates on flood maps, road closures and sandbagging operations, go to www.cityofmadison.com/flooding.
Other developments Monday:
Damage reports to private property made to the United Way 211 phone number surpassed 1,300, Miller said. As of Friday, over $108 million in damage, both public and private, has been reported.
Monona has stockpiled 700 full sandbags in Oneida Park for property owners. A map of flood-affected properties in Monona is available online at go.madison.com/monona-flooding.
Madison on Monday opened all lanes of East Washington Avenue, which had been constricted since last week due to flooding at intersections. Streets still closed included East Johnson Street from North First Street to North Baldwin Street; East Main Street between Northern Court to the Yahara River; Marston Avenue between East Johnson Street and Sherman Avenue; and the 700 and 800 blocks of East Mifflin Street between Blount Street and Paterson Street.
After offering free rides Saturday through Monday, Metro Transit planned to resume charging regular fares on Tuesday.
A shelter has opened in Madison at West High School, with the American Red Cross also providing cleanup kits and meals at the school.
Team Rubicon, a national disaster relief organization, has a command post set up in Cross Plains, and will begin assisting flood victims on Monday by mucking out basements and doing other recovery work in western Dane County.
Highway 14 from Middleton to Cross Plains has reopened, but the highway remains closed from Cross Plains to Mazomanie, with a bridge out at Black Earth.
Parking is not allowed on Williamson Street in Madison until Friday, and parking is not allowed on East Washington Avenue from Blair Street to Baldwin Street.
Free overnight parking continues at city-owned parking ramps in Madison through Friday, and short-term parking permits are available for $7 a day on five streets on the Isthmus.
All beaches, boat launches and piers in Madison remain closed. Bike paths around and near the Isthmus also remain closed.
The inconvenience aside, the novelty of having so much water in places where there used to be streets and yards is tempting some to play in it. Deputy Madison Mayor Katie Crawley said the city is getting reports of people walking, swimming and kayaking in the floodwaters, which can be contaminated with bacteria or chemical pollutants or obscure dangerous obstacles.
“The water is not safe for many reasons,” Crawley said. “People should stay out of it.”
There are boxes of pork shoulder, push carts stacked with containers of macaroni and cheese, seasoned pork ribs and key lime pie.
At least one cart was overflowing with packages of ground hamburger, while another held whole slabs of beef ribeye that can sell for over $150 a piece.
And all of it was outside, baking in the August sun next to the loading dock of the Middleton Costco.
This was supposed to be the week in which the 153,000-square-foot warehouse store celebrated its 10th year in operation. Instead, the store, which can draw thousands of people a day from around the region, is in the midst of a major cleanup and restoration after record rains cut power for over 14 hours and covered the floor with nearly a foot of water and sewage backup from Monday night into late Tuesday morning.
The store is far from alone.
Most of the stalled vehicles that littered streets and roads in southern Wisconsin have been removed, but businesses throughout the region are dealing with the aftermath of the historic rain event. Carpet is being torn out and pitched along with soaked inventories. Wet vacs and dehumidifiers are running non-stop, and for many there is worry about how to pay for the damage that in most cases is not covered by insurance.
“Right now we’re trying to sort through everything to assess the damage, but it could be $100,000,” said Ward Lundgren, owner of The Camera Co. at 6742 Odana Road in Madison. The store does not have flood insurance.
“It’s going to hurt. It’s going to have a major impact,” Lundgren said.
Lost were Nikon and Sony camera bodies, lenses and photo albums. Camera straps and picture frames dried on the sidewalk Wednesday while other inventory not touched by the water has been moved into storage or to the company’s East Side location at 4232 East Towne Blvd., Lundgren said.
The store, and many other shops on the north side of Odana Road, back up to a large detention basin that doubles as soccer fields. But on Monday night, the continued deluge that dumped more than 9 inches of rain on the city’s Far West Side filled the basin and spilled out over parts of Mineral Point and Odana roads. East of the detention basin, Schwoegler’s Park Towne Lanes, 444 Grand Canyon Blvd., will need new lanes, according to a post on its Facebook page. Many of the shops in the strip malls along Odana Road had nearly 2 feet of water.
At Yuan Spa, a massage studio at 6716 Odana Road, owner Flower Du said her insurance will not cover the flood damage and she’ll likely have to borrow $10,000 to $30,000 to make repairs to the business she opened in 2015. She’ll need new flooring and massage chairs, but her massage tables were salvaged.
Losses not covered
Sohail Siraj opened Best Brains, a business that tutors students in reading, math, writing and other academics, in 2013. He lost books, paper records that had been stored in boxes on the floor and in filing cabinets, and may have to replace carpeting at his business, located in the White House Shoppes, 6710 Odana Road. He had not checked with his insurance agent as of late Wednesday morning.
“With a small business you have a limited budget,” said Siraj, who also has locations in Sun Prairie and Brookfield. “I was not expecting how high the water would be.”
Next door at Wisconsin Martial Arts and Fitness Center, owner Charles Dean, who teaches Karate and Brazilian Jujitsu to about 80 students, is unsure if he will have to replace the lower portion of his walls, but he knows he will have to replace carpeting. He was able to salvage his mats and equipment but lost televisions, gaming consoles and furniture in the lounge area for students and parents.
Dean previously had flood insurance but, unbeknownst to him at the time, his insurance company dropped the coverage from his policy last year. He was among those along the corridor who said it’s time the city looked into the detention pond and its limits.
“If it backs up, it’s going to happen again,” Dean said. “I’ve got to be optimistic. That’s how my students are and that’s how my team is.”
Many others hit by Monday’s flash floods were likely also learning this week that their losses were not covered by insurance. In Madison, just 145 properties are covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The village of Cross Plains has 17 properties in the program, while Mazomanie has 23 properties enrolled; both were hard hit by flooding Monday. In Middleton, 21 properties are in the program, but it was not known Wednesday whether Costco was among them.
On University Avenue, a common spot for flooding, the Whole Foods Market is closed and won’t reopen until at least Monday, according to the company. All phone calls to the store were being transferred to the Milwaukee store, and a person who answered said the store had suffered water damage and electrical problems.
Costco management in Middleton declined to comment Wednesday, and messages left at the company’s headquarters in Issaquah, Washington, were not returned.
But for Collin Jahnke, the store, known for its free food samples, rotisserie chicken, big-screen televisions and walk-in vegetable and fruit cooler, became a refuge. Jahnke and about 60 others who became trapped in the area by the rising waters spent the night with about 20 Costco employees sitting on sofas and sleeping on mattresses in the second-floor break room. Some employees kept their feet out of the water by sitting on the checkout counters while taking a break from providing their overnight guests with an unlimited supply of popcorn, muffins, energy bars, bottled water and dry clothes.
“We just thought we’d have to sit it out a little bit,” said Jahnke, who lives near Capital Brewery in Middleton. “They took a (crummy) situation and made it semi-enjoyable because they always remained calm, they were well organized and constantly were checking on people.”
Jahnke isn’t even a Costco member. He had gone to Monk’s Bar & Grill with his girlfriend, Raechel Ramirez, but after leaving the restaurant their car stalled in standing water. They pushed the 2013 Dodge Dart into the Costco parking lot at about 8:30 p.m., moving it two more times to keep out of the path of the water. At about 10 p.m., employees from the store, which had closed around 6 p.m. after losing power, began asking people in the parking lot to come inside. That included some who had earlier been rescued from high water by the Middleton Fire Department.
Water began coming in the front door of the store at around 10:30 p.m. but later began seeping in around the base of columns and small cracks in the foundation. The main bathrooms also backed up, Jahnke said.
“The smell was just rot. That’s the best way to describe it. A sewage and rot smell,” said Jahnke, 27. “I went nose-blind. I grew accustomed to that smell.”
Jahnke said he slept for only about a half-hour. Throughout the night they could hear shelves collapsing. The store was dark without power and they left at about 8:30 a.m. out a back door to walk to nearby Ball Body Shop, where Jahnke is an estimator.
Jahnke grew up in Sauk County and is used to flood advisories but never expected to see this kind of event in an urban area. He also will have a new place to shop.
“I never thought I would be in danger until Monday,” Jahnke said. “I will most definitely get a membership.”
Madison issued an alert to warn residents about potential flash flooding with possibly severe storms expected Tuesday evening.
Gov. Scott Walker also declared Tuesday a state of emergency for Fond du Lac, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Washington counties in response to heavy rains Monday and Tuesday, adding to a state of emergency declared for Dane County after last week's deluge.
"Conditions are favorable for urban flash flooding with 2 inches to 3 inches of rain in the next two hours with 1 inch later in the evening," the alert from the city of Madison said.
Storms Tuesday knocked out power to tens of thousands in Wisconsin, stretching from Sauk County into Fond du Lac County.
The National Weather Service put all of southern and central Wisconsin into the "enhanced" risk category for severe storms on Tuesday morning, a step above the "slight" risk and the first time the region has been at this level during August.
As of 2 p.m., the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma had half of Wisconsin's 72 counties under a severe thunderstorm watch until 9 p.m. Tuesday, including every county from La Crosse County to Oconto County and all counties to the south of that line.
"The thunderstorms will have the potential of producing winds in excess of 60 mph, large hail and a few short-lived tornadoes," the Weather Service said.
"Frequent lightning can also be expected, and very heavy rain will occur with any thunderstorms, leading to a risk for flash flooding."
More bad news? Heat index readings in the mid-90s are accompanying the storms.
The Weather Service has "high confidence" in the potential for widespread thunderstorms throughout southern and central Wisconsin Tuesday.
"Flooding impacts will be closely tied to where the heaviest rainfall occurs," the Weather Service said. "The risk for flooding will be highest where heavy rain has already fallen over the last week or so."
That includes just about every locale from the southwest corner of Wisconsin to the Fox River Valley.
The Weather Service also said frequent cloud-to-ground lightning is likely and hail up to the size of half dollars is possible.
In Madison on Tuesday, flood work continued both in protecting property and repairing property.
City crews were working to lay rocks along the Lake Monona shoreline in an attempt to stabilize it. As a result, one inbound lane of John Nolen Drive will be closed during non-peak traffic hours, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., through Friday, so equipment can be staged in the lane closest to the lake.
"Crews will work to maintain a portion of the bike path for pedestrians and bikes, but bicyclists are asked to walk their bikes," city officials said.
In some good news from the Isthmus, East Washington Avenue on Tuesday had all lanes open in both directions, which took some pressure off the other streets in the Isthmus. But streets could be closed again if the authorities need to drain more water out of Lake Mendota, causing the Yahara River to again flood more of the Isthmus.
Several Dane County highways are still closed by floodwaters or damage.
Highway KP from Black Earth west to Highway F has one lane closed.
Highway W from Highway B to East Church Road near Utica.
Highway 14 in Black Earth, because of bridge washouts.
Highway J from Old Military Road to Highway S.
Highway G from Highway J to Marsh View Road.
The shutdown of Highway 14 in Black Earth could take a long time to get back to normal.
Two bridges were damaged, one completely washed out, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is recommending both of the bridges be replaced on the east and west sides of Black Earth Creek.
A normal timeline to replace bridges is about three years, considering the time needed for project planning and construction, but Gov. Scott Walker directed DOT to use emergency contracting provisions to get the work done in about three months.
Meanwhile, traffic is detoured to Highway 12 and Highway 78 to get around the Black Earth damage.
The southbound lanes of Interstate 90/94 near Mauston are closed Tuesday afternoon because of flooding, so traffic is being detoured at New Lisbon, east on Highway 80 to Necedah, then east on Highway 21 to Coloma and south on Interstate 39 to Portage.
In Vernon County, Highways 14/61, 162, 33, 131, 35, 80, 82 and 5 have sections closed by high water, debris or mudslides; in Monroe County, Highways 27, 33 and 131 have sections closed by high water; in Juneau County, Highways 12, 33, 58 and 80 have sections closed by high water; and in Sauk County, highway 33 is closed from Wonewoc to Highway 58 because pavement has washed out.
In Crawford County, a flood warning has been issued for the Soldiers Grove area, because two dams on the Kickapoo River have breached in Vernon County, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Record flooding is expected on the Kickapoo River at LaFarge, Viola and Readstown, according to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service of the Weather Service.
Columbia County Emergency Management officials announced Tuesday that the Wisconsin River is expected to reach minor flood stage by Thursday, so free sandbags and sand is available to the public at the Highway Department shop on Old Highway 16 in Wyocena.
"People living in low-lying areas along the Wisconsin River are encouraged to take appropriate actions and to monitor river levels for any changes," said Emergency Management Coordinator Kathy Johnson.
Sandbags are also readily available in Madison, Monona and Middleton, and Sauk County is also providing sandbags at the West Baraboo highway garage and in Reedsburg.
And, with the long Labor Day weekend coming up, Wisconsin Emergency Management is urging travelers to expect the unexpected.
"Planning ahead is key," said Administrator Brian Satula. "The recent flooding has caused road closures, and the holiday weekend can mean extra traffic on roads and highways."
Satula said plan on taking extra time to reach your destination, and pay attention to travel conditions and weather conditions.
Dane County Lakes staff has been working "around the clock" to mitigate flooding on the Yahara chain of lakes before the next round of heavy rain comes later on Tuesday.
"With an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain expected in the next 12 hours, Dane County has continued to cut weeds and remove debris from the lakes," said spokeswoman Stephanie Miller.
Lake levels remained the same overnight, except for Lake Monona declining by a half-inch.
"Given the uncertainty in the forecast, Dane County urges residents to be vigilant and to monitor the weather and street closings before traveling," Miller said.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. An earlier version misstated the stretch of Highway G that has been closed. That highway is closed from Highway J to Marsh View Road.]
Lawyers for University of Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus said Thursday that he is innocent and filed a motion late Wednesday in which they say they have evidence showing that neither of the two women who have accused Cephus of sexual assault were impaired by alcohol in April when they were at Cephus’ apartment.
“First of all I want to say that Quintez is innocent,” said Kathleen Stilling, one of Cephus’ lawyers. “There were three people in that bedroom that night and all three of them know the truth. And we want all the facts to come out to establish the truth.”
Cephus, 20, a junior from Macon, Georgia, is charged with second- and third-degree sexual assault for an incident on April 22 in which he allegedly sexually assaulted two women at his apartment while they were very intoxicated. One of the women also told police that Cephus and his roommate, wide receiver Danny Davis, took photos of both women and laughed as the woman drunkenly struggled to get up from the floor.
“A criminal complaint, and this criminal complaint, is a slanted, one-sided version of the events,” Stilling said, “and we look forward to getting out all of the facts and clearing Quintez’s name.”
Cephus announced last weekend that he was taking a leave of absence from the Badgers in anticipation of charges being filed against him. He was suspended from the team indefinitely on Monday. Davis was suspended for two games by Coach Paul Chryst.
Cephus appeared in Dane County Circuit Court with Stilling and co-counsel Stephen Meyer on Thursday and was released on a signature bond. He will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on Sept. 6.
During the hearing, Court Commissioner Brian Asmus granted a defense motion filed Tuesday that orders prosecutors to preserve certain evidence that the defense believes will be helpful to its case.
Cephus’ lawyers are also asking that the charge of second-degree sexual assault involving one of the women be dismissed, saying they have evidence showing the woman was not intoxicated to the point of being unable to provide consent.
Stilling said that the evidence “establishes Quintez’ innocence.”
The third-degree sexual assault charge does not allege intoxication as a reason for lack of consent.
According to documents filed in Dane County Circuit Court, Cephus’ lawyers say they have security camera footage showing the alleged victim of second-degree sexual assault walking at a normal gait and a text message from the woman to Cephus in which she asks him to look for her vaping device in his apartment.
The woman has told police that she was so intoxicated that she doesn’t recall meeting Cephus at a bar earlier, barely remembers being at his apartment and doesn’t remember getting home to her dorm. The other woman told police that she saw Cephus sexually assault the first woman, and she said both of them were very intoxicated.
In their motion to dismiss the second-degree sexual assault charge, Stilling and Meyer write that they have video footage of the women leaving Cephus’ apartment on Spring Street at about 2:30 a.m.
The video shows one of the women walking out of Cephus’ apartment, then “locating the exit without difficulty and starting down the stairs without demonstrating any signs of impairment,” the motion states.
The other woman is then seen talking briefly with Cephus at his apartment door, conversing normally without any need to lean against anything, according to the motion. She and Cephus go back into the apartment briefly, and then Cephus, Davis, the woman and a third woman leave the apartment and then the building, the motion states.
The attorneys write that at about 3:14 a.m., the woman who left first sent a text message to Cephus saying that she left her Juul vaping device at his apartment and asking him to let her know if he finds it.
“This demonstrates that she remembered that she knew Cephus, knew his name, knew how to get in touch with him, remembered she was at his house, remembered that she had her ‘Juul’ with her, and remembered that she left it there,” Meyer and Stilling write.
The lawyers write that she closed the text message with heart and kiss emojis.
The motion criticizes prosecutors for leaving some text messages and the video out of the criminal complaint, calling it “more than a material omission” but also “a material misstatement of fact given the extreme intoxication alleged in the complaint in this case.”
Because of that, they said, the complaint lacks probable cause to back up the second-degree sexual assault charge and the charge should be dismissed.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said he is aware the motion was filed but has not yet seen it.
Now that Monday’s chaotic flash floods are yielding to slower and surer lake and river flooding, residents in Madison and Monona are evaluating their options, from sandbagging to evacuation.
“This is the time to prepare,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said of the flooding, which has already caused over $100 million in damage countywide.
Madison on Friday issued maps detailing which streets and parcels of land on the Isthmus are most vulnerable to flooding this weekend. The city also distributed bright orange flyers to some 1,700 residents on the city’s Isthmus that their properties are at risk.
Similar maps were put out by the city of Monona covering vulnerable areas around Lake Monona, where dozens of neighbors were helping fill sandbags against the rising waters. Mayor Mary O’Connor said the city is concentrating on the Belle Isle neighborhood, which was hard-hit in previous floods.
Lake Monona is already at historic levels, at 847.92 feet above sea level Friday, surpassing the historic high water mark of 847.86, set in June 2008. With the flood gates upstream in Lake Mendota opened all the way, Monona was expected to rise half a foot more by Sunday, Monona city officials said.
While the heavy flow is a result of the historic rainfall that hit western Dane County on Monday — in some places between 11 and nearly 15 inches — the biggest concern now is additional rain this weekend.
The Madison area dodged a bullet Friday when some of the predicted rain failed to materialize. Only 0.03 inch of rain had fallen at the Madison airport by 4 p.m.
“Luckily we kind of under-achieved with this morning’s round,” said John Gagan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Milwaukee. “We’ll take any relief we can get.”
The National Weather Service was still predicting storms overnight, which could produce ¼ to ½ of an inch of rain. The next expected round of storms will come Sunday through Tuesday and could produce between 1 and 3 inches of rain.
“There will be multiple rounds of rain somewhere nearby if not overhead,” Gagan said.
1,068 damage claims
Earlier Friday, County Executive Joe Parisi said initial damage assessments from Monday’s storm, which hit areas of western Dane County including Mazomanie, Black Earth and Cross Plains especially hard, have topped $108 million. About two-thirds of that damage was to private homes and businesses, while the rest was to public property.
So far, 1,068 damage reports have been made to 211, the phone number used by the United Way of Dane County to gather damage reports from citizens and business, Parisi said. An earlier tally of the reports totaled $69 million, while damage to public infrastructure has been estimated at $38 million.
County officials are urging homeowners to report damage using the 211 system “as soon as possible.”
As the county rushes to draw down Lake Mendota in preparation for additional rain next week, areas along the Yahara River and the downstream lakes, notably Monona, are experiencing a second round of flooding.
Several streets on Madison’s East Side are expected to be closed for an extended period — from one to two weeks or more — as rising lake levels cause water to back up through the city’s storm sewers. Additional streets are expected to flood in coming days.
Soglin urged motorists to use alternative transportation or to avoid the Isthmus by taking routes around the lakes such as Stoughton Road and Monona Drive. He said those with jobs on the Isthmus who can work from home should try to do so early next week.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is requesting boaters to avoid Dane County lakes over the weekend “due to increasing lake levels and substantial amounts of floating debris.” A strict slow-no wake restriction is in effect.
‘Way worse’ than 2008
For now, residents are waiting — and filling sandbags.
“This is way worse” than 2008, said Sue Manning, whose lakefront home on Nishishin Trail on Lake Monona survived that flood and was staying dry behind an earthen berm and a wall of sandbags holding back nearly 18 inches of water.
Residents and teams of volunteers in her Belle Isle neighborhood were filling more bags as quickly as city trucks could deliver sand.
More than 100 homes are at risk of flooding, said Monona Public Works Director Dan Stephany.
Ryan Behnke of Oregon saw a memo from his employer, 1901 Inc., that help was needed, so he texted his brother Taylor Behnke, who took the day off work in Janesville.
“I figure we’ve got a truck, why not?” Taylor said as they unloaded sandbags.
Leslie Reinke, 20, and her friend Marra Andreas drove an hour and 20 minutes from Elkhorn to help. Reinke said she planned to stay “till the sand is gone.”
That could be a while.
Stephany said the city of 7,533 residents had consumed about 40 truckloads of sand through Thursday and was awaiting more to support bagging efforts through the weekend.
Wary of more rain in the forecast, officials put out calls for volunteers Friday afternoon to fill and distribute sandbags. In Madison, where roughly 40,000 sandbags have been filled already, a dozen Dane County Jail inmates helped fill bags, as did about 15 National Guard troops.
In Monona, volunteers assembled at Oneida Park, Interlake Drive, Winnequah Road and Healy Lane and at the end of River Place to fill bags.
The work, along with a combination of public and private projects including berms and storm sewers completed since 2008, is succeeding so far, Stephany said.
“We need people to stay positive,” he said. “It’s working. If it wasn’t working we’d already have water in the road.”
The man who died Monday after being swept away in a flash flood caused by torrential rains has been identified as a longtime employee of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the state’s first historic preservation architect.
The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office said James A. “Jim” Sewell, 70, drowned after the vehicle he was driving got stuck in a drainage ditch that runs through Norman Clayton Park and Greentree-Chapel Hill Park on Madison’s Southwest Side shortly after 9 p.m.
Authorities found his body Tuesday about 500 yards west of where his sport utility vehicle crashed near Chapel Hill and Piping Rock roads.
Sewell, of Madison, worked for the State Historic Preservation Office from 1976 to 2010. He was the office’s first historic preservation architect, said Jim Draeger, state historic preservation officer.
Sewell had two daughters, Debbie Sewell, 40, and Diane Sing, 38, and two grandchildren, along with two stepsons and a step-grandchild, said Lucy Mathiak, who married Sewell in 2002.
“He was really into family. There was nothing he loved more than to be at the center of a family gathering or celebration,” she said. “He had a big personality. It’s surreal.”
On Wednesday evening, a weekly family tradition of grabbing dinner at the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. in Fitchburg took on a somber note, Sing said.
A glass of wine was ordered and set in the middle of the table to honor her father, she said.
“He was a really giving person. We’re all going to really miss him,” she said.
In his role at the Historical Society, Sewell worked on hundreds of historic preservation projects, including Taliesin in Spring Green, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
When restoration work on Taliesin was underway in 2004, Sewell told the Wisconsin State Journal it was not surprising there were conflicting views on whether the changes were saving or wrecking the historic house.
“I’ve been dealing with the place for 25 years and I know that if you have a dozen people from Taliesin in a room, you’ll have two dozen opinions on what should be done,” Sewell said that year.
Draeger, who worked with Sewell for 23 years, said he was “instrumental in the establishment of processes, rules, guidelines and instructional materials that are the backbone of our work today.”
“He was humorous and quite a prankster,” Draeger said. “He was the kind of guy who always had a twinkle in his eye whenever you saw him and always had this kind of ‘I’m up to something’ smirk on his face.”
Sewell would circulate work memos with customized cover sheets, including a picture of Richard Nixon saying “I shall not lie” and the 1960s comic character “Mr. Natural” with a witty comment in a colorized speech bubble, Draeger said.
Mathiak, 63, agreed that Sewell had an affinity for pranks, recalling how he taught her how to hide a color-dying pellet for Easter eggs in a faucet to surprise unsuspecting hand-washers.
After leaving the state agency, Sewell started a consulting business, James A. Sewell Preservation Services, to advise owners and developers on historic properties.
Additionally, Sewell served on area boards, including the Landmarks Commissions in Madison and Fitchburg, the board of directors for the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Wisconsin State Capitol and Executive Residence Board.
Outside of his historic preservation work, Mathiak said Sewell was very involved in All Saints Lutheran Church in Fitchburg, mowing the lawn and assisting the choir.
Sing said he also had a passion for cycling, including on trips to Arizona and Utah, and gardening.
On Monday night, Matt Phair and his wife, Connie, were biking around the neighborhood during a lull in the rain to survey the damage when they saw Sewell’s stranded vehicle.
When Sewell got out of the vehicle, he slipped. Matt Phair, a Madison City Council member, and another unidentified bystander grabbed Sewell, but the force of the water made it difficult for them to hold their grip, and Sewell slipped away.
The Phairs joined family members at the weekly meal Wednesday night to honor Sewell, Sing said.
Historic rains Monday afternoon into Tuesday swamped the western half of Dane County, flooding homes and businesses, washing out roads and bridges, and stranding drivers. Sewell’s was the lone death from the storm.
“He just loved life,” Sing said. “He had a very, very big personality.”
University of Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus tweeted Saturday evening that he's taking a leave of absence from the Badgers football team as the Dane County District Attorney's office intends to issue criminal charges against him for an incident that occurred in April.
Cephus denied any wrongdoing in his statement, tweeting that he's "been wrongfully accused of unlawful conduct" and "is innocent of any allegations associated with this consensual relationship."
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne did not provide information on the nature of Cephus’ charges when contacted Saturday evening. Attempts by the State Journal to reach Madison Police Department public information officer Joel DeSpain for comment were unsuccessful.
Per a UW official, Cephus spoke with Badgers coach Paul Chryst earlier Saturday about taking a leave of absence, and the team was notified at a regularly scheduled meeting later in the day.
"My football family has been supportive to me and I have too much respect for Coach Chryst, his staff and my teammates to become a distraction in what I know will be an outstanding year for the Badgers," Cephus said in his statement on Twitter. "I realize that I don't have the relationships and political pull that others may have here at the University or with the Dane County District Attorney's office, but I am going to fight to clear my name of these allegations. ... I will not be defined by these allegations or this episode."
Chryst did not comment further on his conversation with Cephus or the wideout’s legal situation.
“Earlier today, I met with (Cephus),” Chryst said Saturday night following UW’s practice. “I know he was planning to release a statement, and at this time I don’t have anything more to add to that."
Cephus, a junior, was projected to be the Badgers' top target in the passing game this season. He caught 30 passes for 501 yards and six touchdowns in just nine games last year before breaking his leg at Indiana on Nov. 4.
UW still enters the season with three proven players at the position — junior A.J. Taylor and sophomores Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. True freshman Aron Cruickshank appears the most likely to move into the No. 4 spot on the Badgers’ depth chart.
UW opens its season Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I think you’ve just got to keep going,” Chryst said when asked about Cephus’ absence becoming a distraction. "Guys know, and they deal with a lot of things throughout the season. All of it’s an opportunity, and we’ve got to go forward."
Matt Phair tried, but the power of water was too great.
He and his wife, Connie, had saved two passengers from a sport utility vehicle that had become stuck Monday shortly after 9 p.m. in the drainage ditch that runs through Norman Clayton Park and Greentree-Chapel Hill Park on the city’s Southwest Side near their home.
But when the driver of the vehicle, believed to be in his 70s, got out, he slipped and went under the raging water from torrential rains that filled the ditch.
Phair, 41, and another bystander, whose identity is unknown, grabbed the man, but the force of the water made it difficult to keep their footing and hold their grip. The driver slipped away and wouldn’t be found until nearly 13 hours later, 500 yards to the west.
“I knew that if I take a couple steps, I might get sucked under, too, so I knew I couldn’t go any further,” Phair said. “I didn’t want to try to let go of the shirt to grab something else. We eventually held for as long as we could, but the water just overpowered us and he was gone.”
Phair, a teacher in Mount Horeb and a member of the Madison City Council, said he ran to the other side of Chapel Hill Road after the man was swept away expecting him to be flushed out of one of two culverts. The man never appeared.
Members of the Madison Fire Department’s Lake Rescue Team spent the night and most of Tuesday morning dressed in survival suits and using poles, prods and rakes — forming human chains to search the drainage ditch that at one point was more than 8 feet deep. As the water receded, crews again checked the area and brought in a drone from the Madison Police Department. A search dog was on the way, and divers were about to be deployed into a detention pond when the man’s body was found shortly after 10 a.m. at the edge of the pond in Greentree-Chapel Hill Park.
The death is believed to be the lone fatality from a record rainfall in Dane County that flooded intersections, basements and businesses, washed out bridges, created chaos and reinforced the power of water in an urban environment.
“We’ve always said water is very unforgiving and you’ve got to respect it,” said Clayton Christenson, an assistant chief with the Madison Fire Department. “Swift water is an animal that you can never tame. You can’t control it.”
Christenson said the incident is believed to be the first death attributed to flooding in the city in “many, many years.” More than 50 water rescues were performed Monday night throughout the city, including one instance in which a man was saved after he was pulled by firefighters through the sunroof of his car, he said.
The name of the man who died has not been released. The early details of how the vehicle became stuck serve as an example of how quickly rising floodwaters can create confusion in a residential neighborhood.
Laura and Scott Simmerman spent much of Monday night trying to move items out of their basement, which at one point was under 16 inches of water. The Simmermans live next door to Norman Clayton Park at 933 Chapel Hill Road. A paved bike path stands between their house and the drainage ditch.
The heavy rains sent torrents of water not only through the ditch, but over Chapel Hill Road. Some motorists tried going through the water, but others turned around, Laura Simmerman said. When a sport utility vehicle driving south approached the water running across the roadway, it turned east, likely thinking that the bike path was a street, Simmerman said.
“I think they might have thought that bike path sign was a street sign,” Simmerman said. “They took a left right onto the grass and drove right through the park, but the car started to veer on an angle and then they got stuck, so they backed up.”
Simmerman said the driver backed up toward Chapel Hill Road, but the nose of the car was swept into the ditch.
Moments later, the Phairs, who had gone on a bike ride in the rain to check out storm damage in their neighborhood, arrived on the scene. Matt Phair said he saw the water at about window level of the vehicle but thought the SUV was abandoned.
“Of course, when I got there, I saw people,” Phair said. “As I walked down, I realized how ridiculously hard it was to even walk, but I just felt like they needed to get out.”
After yelling at them, a man in his 50s and a woman in her 70s in the back seat opened a door and, with assistance from the Phairs, got out of the vehicle’s left side. The man got out with little assistance, but the woman struggled, went under the water and had to be pulled out of the water by her hair.
The driver got out of the vehicle on his own, but instead of going straight to higher ground, he went back, possibly to help the passengers. He got sucked under the water.
“I think that I and my wife did what I think most people would do,” Phair said. “I’m not a hero. I think it’s just a good reminder that as neighbors and as citizens that we always have to be out and paying attention and checking on people and helping each other.”
A shooting inside the WORT-FM radio station in Downtown Madison early Sunday left a disc jockey with a non life-threatening injury.
Around 3 a.m., a masked shooter entered the progressive radio station at 118 S. Bedford St. and opened fire on three volunteer radio hosts in the station’s Combo B studio as the three fled the room to take cover, said David Devereaux-Weber, president of WORT’s board of directors.
“A person entered the station and went into the studio and fired a number of shots,” Devereaux-Weber said. “(The hosts) ducked and ran into the master control room and from there into our music library and hid from the shooter.”
Madison police spokesman Howard Payne said the disc jockey, a 33-year-old man, had a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was taken to a hospital. Devereaux-Weber said the man was shot in the buttocks and had been released from the hospital by Sunday afternoon.
Payne said the shooting was not random, and there was no risk to the public. Police are searching for the shooter and did not speculate on a motive for the shooting.
On Sunday afternoon, as show tunes were playing on WORT’s airwaves, Devereaux-Weber pointed out where one bullet penetrated two panes of glass separating the Combo B studio and the master control room where the hosts had fled through. Two other bullet holes could be seen in sound-dampening material on the studio’s wall.
There was no indication that the shooting was related to WORT’s news production, Devereaux-Weber said, and any motive is unclear since the shooter did not speak.
“We’ve given the police some leads about people who might have reason to do something, but these are all long shots, and police have to track it down,” Devereaux-Weber said.
He said the three volunteers took shelter behind a refrigerator in the library that contains hundreds of vinyl albums and called 911 from a landline phone that was next to the refrigerator.
The shooting left them “quite shaken up,” he said.
“It sort of breaks your sense of safety when this happens,” Devereaux-Weber said. “I think it’s going to bring the volunteers of the station closer together.”
He declined to identify the hosts, citing a desire to keep their identities confidential as the shooter remains at-large.
“I think they’re a little bit worried right now,” Devereaux-Weber said.
WORT was transitioning between its programs when the shooter came in.
Two of the hosts in the studio were wrapping up their midnight program, Universal Soul Explosion, while the third host came in to start WORT’s 3 a.m. show for the day, Life Music, said Devereaux-Weber, one of the founders of the listener-supported radio station that broadcasts on 89.9 FM.
“The person was wearing a mask and a hoodie and did not speak,” Devereaux-Weber said of the shooter, adding that the hosts heard about five gunshots.
Since a code is needed to get into the building, Devereaux-Weber said he is unsure whether the shooter knew the code or held the door open after someone entered the station.
Music was playing on air and the microphones were turned off when the shooting occurred, so the gunshots were not heard by listeners, he said.
Once the loop of music that was playing wrapped up, the station went silent until police let volunteers back in and programming resumed at 9:38 a.m., Devereaux-Weber said.
Community support throughout Sunday was “excellent,” Devereaux-Weber said, with tons of phone calls to the station and volunteers stopping by.
“The Madison community is just amazing in how it supports us,” he said.
First hitting the airwaves in 1975, WORT is a nonprofit radio station that relies on hundreds of volunteers to host music programs, produce shows, report on local news and perform other tasks.
The Madison Police Department’s Violent Crime Unit is investigating the shooting, and anyone with information is asked to call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 266-6014.
Michael Leckrone, UW-Madison’s flamboyant and irrepressible Marching Band director, will step down at the end of the 2018-19 academic year, which also marks his 50th year leading the band, the university announced Saturday.
Leckrone, 82, said he made the decision weeks ago but wanted to let band members know first before sharing it publicly.
“I wanted to go before someone told me to,” Leckrone said. “No, really it was going to happen sooner or later, and I didn’t want to stay on too long.”
Leckrone started as the band’s director in 1969, becoming known for extravagant antics, including riding an elephant and a camel onto the field (on separate occasions, of course).
The marching band’s signature stop-at-the-top step — a “Bucky on Parade” statue is even molded in just that position — was created by Leckrone. To invoke a sense of energy, he had band members hesitate when their knees were in the highest point of their step and he had them point their toes at a 45 degree angle, like dancers.
In contrast to the demanded perfection of the marching band on the field, Leckrone also introduced the “Fifth Quarter,” a rowdy party where Leckrone unleashes the band members onto the field after a football game is over to continue playing favorites from the university songbook and pop music charts.
At concerts off the field, the enthusiastic conductor stood out even more, donning sequined and sparkling jackets at the UW Varsity Band Spring Concerts.
Leckrone took the helm of the marching band only 51 years after Camp Randall Stadium was opened, university spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said, making him the second-longest serving figure at the stadium. Bucky Badger has been on the field as the official mascot about 20 years longer.
“Mike’s record of service is enviable,” said Susan Cook, director of the Mead Witter School of Music. “He has given tirelessly to the School of Music’s athletic band program and to the university at large.”
Alumnus Jay Gilbert, son of Dale Gilbert, who hired Leckrone when he was director of the School of Music, remembers walking back to the Mosse Humanities Building following games in the 1970s and stopping to perform for sick children.
“On the way, Mike would stop the band outside of the children’s ward of the University hospital, which was in the center of campus at the time, where we would play a few tunes for the children,” Gilbert said. “We knew it was meaningful for him, and it became meaningful for us.”
Gilbert is now chair of Doane University’s music department in Nebraska.
“For those of us who have followed in his footsteps as band directors and know him well, we are awed by his incredible musical gifts,” he said.
Although he's stepping down as band director, Leckrone will remain on the faculty as a professor in the School of Music.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. An earlier version mischaracterized Leckrone's plans. He will step down as director of the UW Marching Band, but he plans to continue sering as a professor in the School of Music.]
A 74-year-old man alleged to have fatally shot a woman in the presence of her 15-year-old son and 4-year-old grandson at her Waunakee apartment Friday evening has been arrested on a tentative charge of first-degree intentional homicide, police said at a Saturday news conference.
Waunakee police identified Ronald Jenne as the suspect in the Creekside Condominiums shooting in the 200 block of Kearney Way.
The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victim as Julie Virginia Anderson, 54, of Waunakee.
Jim Rowley, a neighbor of the victim, who said he entered Anderson’s apartment shortly after hearing shots fired, encountered the 15-year-old attempting to render aid while also speaking with a 911 dispatcher.
“I don’t know how he kept it together trying to keep her alive,” Rowley said.
A helicopter transported Anderson to UW Hospital, where she died just after 7 p.m. Friday. An autopsy determined her death was the result of homicidal firearm-related trauma, the medical examiner’s office said.
On Friday evening, Jenne went to Anderson’s ground-floor apartment — where her 15-year-old son and 4-year-old grandson were at the time of the shooting — and Anderson let Jenne into the apartment, according to Waunakee Police Chief Kevin Plendl.
Rowley, a longtime neighbor in the multi-unit building to both Jenne and Anderson, said he lived kitty-corner to Anderson’s apartment and next to Jenne’s.
He described Jenne as a quiet person who kept to himself aside from the occasional hallway hello.
Rowley said he raced out of his own unit into the hallway after hearing “loud bangs” and found Jenne, who used an obscenity when Rowley attempted to say hello. Rowley said he saw Jenne carrying a pistol as Jenne returned to his apartment.
Rowley said he entered Anderson’s apartment and observed the 15-year-old boy applying pressure to her wounds while also on the phone with an emergency dispatcher.
The first officers arrived on scene at 5:09 p.m. and found Jenne in a standoff.
A Dane County SWAT team negotiator spoke with Jenne over the phone, a negotiation that lasted less than 15 minutes, Plendl said.
Jenne surrendered and is being held in the Dane County jail. The gun believed to be used in the shooting, a .380-caliber handgun, was recovered in Jenne’s apartment.
Plendl said no motive has been determined.
Jenne had several interactions with police in 2018, including some incidents that made officers concerned over “possible mental health issues,” Plendl said.
Court records show a disorderly conduct complaint filed against Jenne Friday.
The complaint stems from four cases of criminal disorderly conduct by Jenne for incidents that occurred in late July and early August, though none of the cases were connected to Anderson, Plendl said.
Police put Jenne in contact with mental health services on several occasions, Plendl said. He said he could not go into greater detail, citing the ongoing investigation.
Both children are with family members, and Victim Services is involved, Plendl said.
Earlier this year, the National Council for Home Safety and Security ranked Waunakee — a village of about 13,000 people — the second-safest city in Wisconsin.
Rowley, the neighbor, described the area as safe and quiet, a place he felt comfortable enough to leave his door unlocked.
“This is just something that’s not normal in Waunakee,” village president Chris Zellner said of the shooting. “This is an isolated incident, hopefully.”
The last homicide in Waunakee was in 2008 and that case did not involve a firearm, Plendl said.
“It’s really tragic,” he said. “People are not used to this at all. … The person that’s responsible for this is in jail and will be held accountable for this.”