A Rock County man is bringing new meaning to the name Mr. Sandman! He invented a machine that fills sandbags in seconds and it's come in all too handy for him in recent weeks.
"We can fill a sandbag in about six seconds," says Stacey Babiarz.
The inspiration for his super-speedy sandbag filling machine happened a thousand miles away from his home town in Rock County, north of Janesville.
"It was after Katrina that I was watching the news, that I figured there has to be a better way, a more mechanized way, a portable way and affordable," says Babiarz.
That's when Babiarz got to work on the Bucket Bagger. It's an attachment for skid steers, that scoops the sand up and funnels it into bags, without the back-breaking labor usually required.
But Babiarz never knew how useful the machine would become back home.
"We filled a little over a half a million sandbags here in ten days," He says. "We'd start out here sometimes at 6:00 in the morning. Twelve at night there'd still be people coming for sandbags. Come back in the morning and it felt like Groundhog Day! We'd start all over again."
And Babiarz's work didn't end with helping the neighbors.
"Never in my lifetime did I dream that I would be my best customer!"
Babiarz brought out all the Bucket Baggers he had and the whole community came together to save each house.
"Thirty, forty, fifty people would come over to my house, we'd do my house, we'd all go over to the next location."
But for some neighbors, no machine could work fast enough to keep the water out.
"The water just came up so quick here that it was a losing battle," Babiarz points out from his paddle boat.
And now that the water is starting to recede, the long clean-up process can begin.
"Home sweet home!" I say. "Well I don't know about sweet right now," laughs Babiarz.
The National Weather Service expects water levels to continue to drop about an inch or inch and a half a day in that Rock County community, twelve miles north of Janesville, so the worst should be over.
Babiarz is getting together response teams to bring Bucket Baggers to Iowa and other hard-hit areas in the midwest that need help right now.
The machines are also often shipped to California for construction projects.
The attachments are $5,400 a piece. Head to www.bucketbagger.com for more information.