Crews search for man swept away in Wisconsin flooding

MADISON, Wis.   — A man who was stranded in his vehicle is missing and presumed dead after gushing floodwaters wrenched him from a would-be rescuer’s arms after a deluge of heavy rain in southern Wisconsin, fire officials said Tuesday.

The National Weather Service says more than 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain reportedly fell overnight in places in or around the state’s capital city of Madison. The downpour has flooded major roads and knocked out power to thousands of customers.

Bystanders and firefighters tried to rescue the man and two other people from a vehicle that got stuck in a flooded Madison park on Monday night. Rescuers pulled the man’s two companions to safety, but he was swept away by the strong current.

Dive teams and first responders were searching for the man Tuesday morning, but he is presumed dead, the Madison Fire Department said. Firefighters were wading through waist-deep water and using drones to get overhead views of the area, department spokeswoman Cynthia Schuster said.

Authorities have not released the identity of the missing man.

The weather service said it suspects that the downpour broke a Wisconsin record for most rainfall in a 24-hour period. The Madison suburb of Middleton has so far recorded 11.6 inches (29.5 centimeters), but rainfall reports were still coming in. The previous record was 11.7 inches near Mellen in northern Wisconsin, set on June 24, 1946.

Black Earth Creek hit record flood stage with evacuations underway in Black Earth, Cross Plains and Mazomanie, according to Dane County Emergency Management. A temporary shelter was set up at Mazomanie Village Hall.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi’s chief-of-staff, Josh Wescott, said about 100 people had been evacuated in Mazomanie, and sheriff’s deputies were using an air boat to reach people still trapped in their homes.

County officials have discovered a number of damaged bridges and culverts and were beginning to put together a full damage report, Westcott said. Parisi declared a state of emergency in the county on Tuesday morning, the first step toward qualifying for state and federal assistance.

About 6,000 Madison Gas and Electric customers lost power Monday night as the storms hit west of Madison. Power was restored to the majority of those customers by Tuesday morning, but repairs were delayed because the floods made some roads impassable.