HARRISON, WI — An 11-year-old boy playing in floodwaters was quickly swept away and, if not for a sharp-eyed firefighter, might have been lost to a wicked thunderstorm front that pounded the southern half of Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota Tuesday night.
The boy and some of his friends were playing in a flooded drainage ditch in the Village of Harrison about 6 p.m. after the rain had passed and disappeared under water. The water was rushing so fast a grown adult man would have been sucked into the culvert that leads to the storm sewer, a Harrison rescue official said.
A bystander told of unsuccessfully trying to hold onto the boy to prevent him from being sucked into the culvert, leading to a scramble to find storm sewer maps to figure out where the water might carry him. Harrison Deputy Fire Chief Wesley Pompa and Road Superintendent Bob Kesler were poring over maps from about 30 feet away when Pompa saw the boy’s finger pop through the cover.
He was lucky. He found a pocket of air just beneath the manhole cover and clung to the ladder. Poma and Kesler popped the cover off and lifted him to safety.
“He was hollering and talking to us and he was able to reach up for us,” Pompa told the Associated Press.
The boy, whose name Pompa never caught, is alert and conscious at a Madison hospital.
“I just thank God he was alive and he’d made it that long,” Pompa said. “It could have gone a million different ways but this one way it worked out for him.”
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Up to a foot of rain fell in some parts of southwestern Wisconsin Monday night into Tuesday. A pair of campers on a canoe trip were rescued from neck-high floodwaters in Rockton. In Green Bay, a mother and daughter teamed to rescue a woman from her partially submerged car.
Residents waded through chest-high floodwaters to escape their mobile home park in LaCrosse, mudslides caused widespread evacuations in Vernon County and the Kickapoo River flooded to near-record levels. The storms stalled an Amtrak train overnight Tuesday, and parts of Interstate 90/94 were closed overnight.
Several unconfirmed tornadoes were spotted Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service said. Among them was a possible tornado that killed 100 head of cattle and destroyed two barns in Fond du Lac County.
“It all began after rounds of heavy rain and thunderstorms rolled through the morning hours of Aug. 27,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Isaac Longley said. “After a break in the rain during the afternoon, a line of violent thunderstorms erupted over southern Minnesota and advanced eastward into Wisconsin, the same area where heavy rain had fallen just earlier in the day.”
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in six southern Wisconsin counties. It was the second time this month that flooding has swamped that part of the state.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
Image: Emergency responders, police and firefighters search for a missing boy who disappeared beneath the water of a retention pond while playing with friends on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Harrison, Wisconsin. The boy was found, alive, in an air pocket beneath a manhole cover about 30 feet from the place he went missing. (Wm. Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via AP)