The unthinkable occurred this morning in the Wisconsin Dells/Lake Delton area – Lake Delton vanished.
A swollen Lake Delton washed a path of destruction through portions of the Wisconsin Dells area on Monday as flood waters rose above the lake’s banks, cut through a portion of a nearby highway and destroyed adjacent homes before flowing into the Wisconsin River.
Authorities said that this weekend’s torrential rain and widespread flooding caused the 245-acre lake to flow above its banks in the popular resort town.
At least four Sauk County homes were washed away as Lake Delton overflowed and washed across portions of County Highway A into the Wisconsin River on Monday morning. About 80 percent of the lake has washed down the river, WISC-TV reported.
The rush of water tore a gash through the highway about 100 to 200 feet wide and 50 feet deep, WISC-TV reported.
The lake emptied into an almost barren bed. Lake Delton village trustee Thomas Diehl said that the lake is now dry.
County emergency management director Jeff Jelinek said that Dell Creek Dam on Lake Delton is overtopping, but is still holding. The water has swelled and is flowing into the river.
Officials with the state’s Department of Natural Resources said that the lake drained into the Wisconsin River after a highway embankment failed and water poured out of the lake, essentially emptying it.
Officials said that the rushing water wasn’t caused by the dam’s failure, but rather the area is low-lying and has been inundated by recent rains.
Dione Leonhardt, co-owner of the River’s Edge Resort, said that she saw the deluge.
“It looked like a giant waterslide, but it was just coming from so fast around that bend. It was just amazing,” Leonhardt said.
Bill Pettit has owned the Delton Oaks Resort on the lake for 12 years. He said he watched the embankment wash away and saw the flood water push a two-story lakefront house into the lake. It quickly disappeared under the rushing water.
Shortly after, he saw the foundation of two other lakefront houses wash away, leaving the houses in rubble.
He said that his 30-unit resort is out of business. It’s been in operation since 1948.
He’s been calling summer vacationers to alert them that the lake is gone and that boating and fishing won’t be possible.
Here’s some video of an unbelievable event.
Here’s some photos from Channel 3000.
Here’s video of an interview with the owner of Tommy Bartlett World.
The immediate question now for the area – will the Mirror Lake Dam hold? The next question – how long before the lake can be restored?