National News

Flash Flooding Rages Through Maryland Community

Posted May 27, 2018 10:19 p.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2018 10:23 p.m. EDT

Flash floods Sunday raged through the downtown of a Maryland community that was devastated by flooding nearly two years ago, prompting residents to seek shelter in upper floors and authorities to dispatch swift-water rescue teams, officials said.

The community, Ellicott City, about 15 miles west of Baltimore, experienced floodwaters 6 feet deep in some places, according to witnesses. There was no immediate word of injuries, and no deaths were reported.

“We are not aware of anybody who has lost their life or anybody who is missing,” said Allan Kittleman, county executive for Howard County.

Howard County fire and emergency medical services said on Twitter that rescue swimmers were being called in and that swift-water units were coming from as far away as Northern Virginia. “If you are trapped, we are coming,” it said.

Photos and video from the downtown area showed a white flag with “SOS” on it hanging out a window, piles of debris and at least one car that was mangled in the flooding. Max Robinson, who lives on Main Street in the community, said on Twitter that the water reached above 6 feet in spots.

A local business, Tea on the Tiber, posted on Facebook that it had 30 people trapped. “Send help,” it said. Rescuers later confirmed on Twitter that everyone had safely evacuated the building.

Mark Miller, a spokesman for the county, said the episode equaled or perhaps exceeded the July 2016 flooding in which two people died after more than 6 inches of rain fell in two hours.

That flooding ripped up sidewalks, gutted many of the town’s quaint shops and carried off vehicles, depositing some of them blocks away.

The flooding in 2016 caused catastrophic damage, but 96 percent of the businesses downtown rebuilt and reopened. To see the damage on Sunday was “heartbreaking and devastating,” Miller said.

Sally Fox Tennant, the owner of Discoveries, a craft and jewelry shop on Main Street, said she felt “completely numb” and in shock.

“I was putting sandbags in front of the shop doors, watching the street flooding out front, thinking, ‘Wow, I don’t think those street drains are keeping up.'”

Tennant, who lives in an apartment above her store, left her cat behind and escaped to another shop across the street once her basement began to flood. With waters rising, she said, she climbed through a third-floor window of that shop, then sought shelter in a stranger’s home. She was later taken to the Howard County Police Headquarters.

She tried to call loved ones using her waterlogged cellphone.

“I’ve owned that shop for 38 years,” she said. “During the flood two years ago, I almost lost everything. This time, it looks so much worse. I think my store is completely gone. I just don’t think I can start all over again.”

Miller, who lives 3 miles from Ellicott City, said he had 6 inches of water in his basement, something that had not happened in the more than 25 years he has lived in the house.

“We had a very, very heavy cell move over us, and it just unloaded and did not let up,” he said.

Founded in 1772 as a mill town, Ellicott City has for the past several decades catered to tourists with its historical charm and antique shops. Its location in the Patapsco River Valley and its position on a granite bedrock make it susceptible to flooding “with terrific force,” Miller said.