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The face of the flood: a year later they tell their story


August 22, 2019

File photo

Allison Barsness, left, and Emily Taylor, right, being rescued by airboat the morning of Aug. 21st in Mazomanie. Taylor was 7 months pregnant at the time.

Allison Barsness appeared on the front page of the Star News. She is on the left in the photo. She lives Mazomanie, north of Black Earth Creek. This is her story.

On Monday, Aug. 20 I was working on the west side of Madison on Rosa Road off of Mineral Point Road. I made it home that evening by 4:45 p.m. and the fields were already flooding and some water over the roads in some areas. My co-worker had to work until 5:45 p.m. that evening and lives in Mt. Horeb. Every direction she went the roads were closed. I was trying to look for roads that were possibly still open for her. She eventually got onto 18-151 but was not able to make it all the way back to Mt. Horeb and she had to stay the night in Verona. My aunt and one of my cousins, who live in Black Earth, ended up staying overnight in Greenway Station at Cafe Zupas because of the flooding.

Fast forward to the next morning: My husband and I both woke up around 5:45 a.m. to get ready for work. For context, the house we lived in was a two unit house, and we rented the upper unit from the owners that lived on the first floor, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. We looked out the window and quickly realized how bad things got over night as there was water flowing through the front yard. I texted my boss and told her that I did not think I would be making it in that day. My husband left around 6:20 a.m. just to see if we would be able to make it out. He made it two blocks and had to turn around. Once he got home, my husband went over to help his brother move their vehicle into their garage since it was not starting, and they wanted to get it onto a little bit of higher ground.

At that point, we were not going to mess with trying to get things out of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's basement because of the risk of electrocution. The water was starting to flow into the side and back of the yard. My husband moved both of our vehicles a little farther forward in the driveway to the highest ground he could and put one of the vehicle's front wheels up on ramps. As we were waiting, the water continued to rise and soon after we heard and saw the rescue air boat down the road. We soon got word that they were picking up the elderly, women, and children, who wanted to go at that point. My sister in law decided she would go with her son and I decided to join her.

We ended up walking to the boat which was a few houses down from us. This was a challenge in itself since we could not see where we were stepping, and the water was about half way up our shins. Once all of us were on the boat they had to have the boat pushed back, away from the house it that was nearby. As we started going forward, the cop next to me asked me to look out for any vehicles or other large objects that were submerged and in front of us. When we got onto State Street/County Y we saw how much worse the damage was already to the houses around us and the vehicles. At the time we left, the bridge by the Bed and Breakfast was not covered in water, so the driver of the air boat had to rev up the fan to get us going as much as he could onto the bridge and then power us over the bridge. As we got to the intersection of Hudson, and as we were riding towards downtown and the flag pole, we saw how many people were standing there, waiting, and watching and it became more surreal what was happening.

We were able to get a hold of our mother-in-law, and our father-in-law was able to come get us and bring us to their house.

Once we got to my in-law's house I was able to get a hold of my parents, who live in Black Earth. Fortunately, they were not having issues with water coming up to their house, but they were having water coming up through the floor in their basement. Later that evening, once County KP was re-opened, my husband and I were able to get to my parents' house to help them with the water they were continuing to get in their basement. They ended up taking shifts all night and throughout the next day to keep the water level low.

We were out of the house for 10 nights though because of the damage to the electrical panel and a few other things.

Emily Taylor appeared on the front page of the Star News. She is on the right in the photo, holding her baby. She lives Mazomanie, north of Black Earth Creek. This is her story.

My husband and I woke [on Tuesday, Aug. 21] as we did any other day. I noticed an email from my employer stating my building was closed due to flooding. My initial thought was "yeah no work today!" Then when I looked outside. I was really confused what I was looking at. I could see a shiny reflection on the ground and I didn't know where that was coming from. Then I realized it was all water! We grabbed our 10 month old son and went outside to assess the situation. Water at this point was flooded in the streets and growing onto our yard, and I believe our yard was the only yard left with grass still showing, at roughly 6:30 a.m.

We had a vehicle parked in the street that my husband planned to drive to higher ground, but could only drive up our yard and get as close to our house as possible. We saw a Mazo firefighter walking through the water asking if residents wanted to be evacuated, again I was very confused what was happening and that it wasn't going to get better until it got worse. Once we realized that we weren't driving anywhere and needed to be rescued from our home I started packing up all the supplies I needed for our infant son. I was not thinking about my husband and I so I didn't pack clothes for the two of us, and we later got clothes from Goodwill to help us get through.

At the time we had three dogs and three cats that we obviously couldn't take with so we put out water and food and understood that messes were going to happen in our home because we did not know when we would be allowed back. We heard the rescue boat coming so we said goodbye to the animals and my husband helped me, because I was seven months pregnant. He also helped our son on the boat while he stayed behind and helped the fire department and rescue staff further evacuate our neighbors. The next several hours I walked around the elementary school with my son trying to get him comfortable enough to take a nap and get me off my feet, with no luck. I was able to get a hold of my dad who came into Mazomanie to pick us up and take us to my mother-in-law's where we'd end up staying for the next week.

The next coming days involved my husband, family, friends, and church family tearing down walls and gutting out our basement. Once we got the all clear, our family moved back in our home and starting the rebuilding process, which still isn't completed today. We received many generous donations such as a washer and dryer and a new water heater to name a few and many helpers giving their time. The weeks and months to follow the flood I really felt the sense of community around us and fell even more in love with Mazomanie and proud to call it our home. Our rebuild progress has been slow because we now have two boys under two and that keeps us quite busy, but we are getting close. Still to this day I get very anxious when there is a heavy downfall of rain. I pray we never have to go through this sort of disaster again.


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