Lake Delton businesses 5 years after flood - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Lake Delton businesses 5 years after flood


LAKE DELTON (WKOW) -- Five years ago, Lake Delton overflowed, a dam breached and the lake emptied – leaving local businesses devastated.

"I try to push that time to the back of my mind. It was a horrific summer," said Tom Diehl, co-owner of the Tommy Bartlett Show.

Diehl says that during the early morning of June 9, 2008, he was filling sandbags to protect the dam, but knew it would break. And about an hour and half after he finished, it did and about 600 million gallons of lake water flowed into the Wisconsin River. Along with it went five homes, according to Diehl.

Vacation home rental manager George Roberson was there to see it.

"We were right over here and when we saw that house go down the river. It was like something from a disaster movie," said Roberson, manager of the Sand County Service Company.

Though businesses were not damaged structurally, they suffered too.

"The economic loss to the 21 businesses was catastrophic," Diehl said, explaining that with no lake, he could only put on stage and air performances. Attendance for the iconic ski show dropped 90 percent.  

"It was one gigantic mud hole," Diehl said. "It was a pretty depressing place to come down here to watch a show."

However, the business community stepped up, buying tickets and giving them to their customers to help shows such as Tommy Bartlett.

Even so, it wasn't until 2012 that Tommy Bartlett's business climbed back up to the level it was in 2007, before the flood.

"People thought the whole town was under water, which it wasn't," Roberson said. Sand County Service Company suffered a 40 percent loss that year.

Five years later, "we are back 100 percent and business is great," Roberson said. "The hardest thing was literally waiting for the lake to refill because no one wanted to come, look out, and think they'd have a beach front property when it's literally a mud hole."

Roberson says Lake Delton is different after it was refilled. 

"I must say the water is a lot cleaner. It is a lot better fishing, Roberson said, adding there's now a public fishing pier. "It is something good out of something bad."


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