Residents and business owners of the historic Ellicott City continued cleaning up Tuesday after Sunday’s flood that tore down trees, washed away sidewalks, and wreaked havoc on homes and stores.
Approximately 400 residents were escorted down to the flood zone by fire and safety officials. This was the second devastating flood in less than two years and worse than the last one.
Before allowing reporters down Main Street in Ellicott City, Rob Smeltzer with Howard County Fire and Rescue warned them.
“There is dangerous stuff, there is unstable footing,” Smeltzer told reporters. “So we’re going to ask everybody to stay in the middle of the street. Just be careful there is a lot of debris. We’ve cleaned the street pretty well.”
As you walk down the steep hill, you can follow the course the water took as it ripped up sidewalks leaving sink holes in front of almost collapsing store windows. Debris and powerlines are pushed to the side of the road for maintenance trucks and golf carts to pass through.
“Just the mud,” said Johnson. “The water wasn’t this dirty last time for us.”
Nicholas Johnson, owner of Su Casa Funiture store, was mopping mud and water out of his store front. He said the last flood took roughly $15,000 worth of his store’s merchandise, but he’s yet to see how much he lost this time.
He said he wasn’t expecting the devastation this one would cause.
“One of the reasons we came back because it was dubbed the thousand-year flood,” said Johnson. “Well here we are 22 months later in another thousand-year flood that is more devastating and worse.”
Many buildings on the street have an “X” spray painted on the outside. Smeltzer says it means those buildings’ structures have been inspected.
“So what that means, the ‘X’, the top section of it is the date of the search,” said Smeltzer. “The left section would be the company that did it. The bottom would be victims rescued dead or alive. The right section would be any hazards that were found."
Angelina Branngian, owner of A DIVAZ Boutique, has a number one in the bottom quadrant of the ‘X’ on her store, she was rescued.
“The water started flowing in,” said Branngian. “So I got up on that ledge there where that black thing is and just ripped that ceiling open and there is a blue strap you can see hanging from it and I held on to that while the water was coming in.”
Branngian managed to break the storefront window to allow herself and the water to escape. She was rescued by a fire and safety team. Branngian says she doesn’t have flood ensure and isn’t sure when or if she’ll be able to rebuild.
“You know, I don’t know. You know this is going to take a long time for it to be anywhere near done,” said Branngian.
While Baltimore Gas and Electric crews worked to restore power and gas to hundreds of customers, residents lined up at the George-Howard Building up hill from the flood zone to be escorted to their homes.
Ben Broedel and Kim Scarfe were waiting to get a shuttle down to their second-floor apartment on Main Street. Once they got there they would have just 10 minutes to collect their belongings and leave again.
"We have a plan we’re setting our timer at five minutes so we know we have five minutes left,” said Scarfe. “I know exactly which suitcase I’m gunning for. And then I’ve made a map and a little list of get this, get that, get that.”
Broedel and Scarfe are saddened to have to find a new place to live, but remain hopeful.
“We’re trying to keep our life going,” said Broedel. “We’ve been up rooted but a lot of people have it worse off.”
John Shoemaker was separated from his wife, Maggie Shoemaker, and their infant during the storm. Both their home and shop are on Main Street were under about eight feet of water. But Shoemaker says “they know the drill.”
“We kind of know what to do to clean up, and I would think probably in two or three days should have the house back together,” said John Shoemaker.
Even if clean-up is over after two or three days, rebuilding could take upwards of six months according to county government officials.
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman issued an executive order yesterday placing the county under a state of emergency till further review by the county council later this week.
The order read: “the conditions pose a risk of imminent harm, or even death, to individuals; and threaten the lives, health, and safety of individuals.”
That’s why Carilyn Rego with the non-profit Grassroots Crisis Intervention says she’s volunteering to help people.
“We’re just here to support people,” said Rego. “Let them know about our resources. Give them our card and let them know we’re here.”
Grassroots is assisting residents with temporary housing and counseling. There is a list of resources on Howard County’s Facebook page and a call for residents to go to the 50+ Center on Frederick Road for shelter, food, and other emergency services between 10 A.M and 8 P.M.
The Howard County government has scheduled an information session for home and business owners affected by the flood at 6 P.M. Wednesday at Howard High School on Old Annapolis Road.