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Sludge shuts down University Avenue

Morning commute messy as crews clean up muddy debris

MADISON, Wis. - When another few inches of rain was dumped on Madison Wednesday, Keith Anderson said it was more than the storm drain system could take.

"Don't know what else to tell you other than it's just a big, stinky mess," said Anderson, Shorewood Hills fire chief.

Just after 6 a.m., Anderson pulled up to the intersection of University Avenue and Shorewood Hills Boulevard. The intersection has flooded in the past, but this time, it was underneath at least 3.5 feet of water.

"We had multiple manhole covers and storm inlet covers that were off here," Anderson explained. "If someone would have gotten out of their vehicles and walked into those, we could have lost them."

Crews had an even bigger challenge ahead of them.

Mixed in with all of that water was debris from the storm drains. The muddy mix took crews more than seven hours to clean up. The road was shut to all vehicles except buses for that entire time.

"The water has to work its way through the existing storm drain system," Anderson said. "It can only go so far and then it backs up."

Anderson said city engineers are working on remedying that issue. He added while there are sewer pipes underneath the flooded section of University Avenue, he is confident the mud mix covering the road and nearby parking lot was all from storm drain debris.

Brianna Brunker watched much of the clean-up from Penzeys Spices. Like many, she was detoured to side roads on her morning commute.

"It wasn't really as much water as it was black, sludgy, questionable, I'm not quite sure what it was," Brunker explained.

Other businesses nearby experienced minor flooding in their stores. Luckily, Penzeys wasn't one of them.

Brunker said flooding is nothing new, but the sludge is something new.

"I've never seen it backed up like this before, so I mean typically it floods when its a flash flood, a lot of rain at one time, so that's when I've seen it like that," Brunker said. "But I've never seen it like this before."

A morning commute is messy as crews clean up muddy debris

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