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Madison’s Flooding Isthmus: Angry Lakes And Reflective People

August 24, 2018

“I thought when I moved from Houston I had left the flooding behind,” was the way this young man felt about what is the only topic up for discussion on the Madison isthmus.  Following the massive rainfalls on Monday night, that totaled nearly 14 inches in western Dane County, the drainage through the Four Lakes now is creating massive problems.   With four inches of water expected at his ground floor apartment door by Sunday morning, according to predictions from the city, he was busy placing sandbags for his protection.

Everywhere I walked this afternoon throughout the part of the isthmus I call home one constant thing popped out at me.  Everyone seemed communicative, friendly, neighborly.  Every person seemed to want to share their astonishment or just connect with some one else.  As such I had some truly wonderful conversations.  None were overly long but just memorable.  There were also people who made a prefect statement with no words needed.

When taking a very late lunch at Mickey’s (first time to eat at the corner bar–great chili I might add, along with a good cup of coffee) a waitress commented that perhaps what the isthmus is experiencing will allow for more humility.  She spoke of how weather-related events always happen “over there” as she motioned with her hand to an unseen horizon.  But now the ravages of Mother Nature are threatening the community we live in.  A friend of hers had been at Woodman’s grocery early this morning and there was a run on bottled water.  Some of the images we see in other states are now seen in our own city.

Standing alongside Lake Monona as some light rain was falling a man who was 57 years old commented that never before had he seen the lake look so angry.  “I have been out on the lake fishing since I was a boy and never have I seen it look like this.  The water is angry today”.    He also stated what is most clear.  Never before has Lake Monona been threatening to set a record high level. But he left with a happy memory as he recalled some of the best fishing when the water was churning about.  But when asked what it would take for him to head out today he remarked with a grin that even the fish have motion sickness.

A scientist at UW-Madison who looked with me into a street drain where water was only an inch from splashing above the metal grate hoped that perhaps the frenzy of warning people was a way to make sure residents were prepared.  Akin to battening down the hatches prior to a blizzard.  It makes sense for local government to prepare for the worst and hope for something less damaging.

A light-hearted moment took place when a woman came out of Festival Foods with a small metal container with some crushed ice and threw it onto the terrace.  She laughed as she said “I will feel so bad if this melts and adds to the flooding”.

Everywhere one looked there were sights of preparations to combat flooding either being started, about to continue, or concluded.


The scenes of homes being much more prepared today than just 24 hours ago.  Tonight this home is sandbagged and a sump-pump is working overtime to prevent an all-out disaster for this family.  Last night when I made a walk there was no sand bags in place.

As I noted today in an earlier blog post the isthmus is a very special place.  Old homes, lots of history, and much beauty.  But Mother Nature holds no affections and warmth for anyplace.  Those attributes are what the people of this community embody.  And I witnessed it today in countless conversations.  As a former reporter, blogger, and my father’s son who never met a stranger he could not talk to, I ambled all about today talking to folks of all ages.

In those conversations comes the truth that on any other day may not be so clearly seen.  We all are so very much alike.



One Comment
  1. Solly permalink
    August 24, 2018 10:16 PM

    Sorry, I couldn’t hep myself, your line about the lakes being angry reminded me of this. All is explained in Seinfeld.

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