As you probably have heard by now, Historic Ellicott City, a charming, quaint, vibrant, beloved town, some 244 years-old and counting, suffered a devastating flash flood on Saturday, July 30.
Restaurants, stores and businesses were demolished in the raging floods brought on by 5.9 inches of rain in two hours.
The normal river flow of 60 cubic feet of water per second escalated to 21,000 cubic feet per second … like that!
People tell stories of sitting in their apartments, enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant, or serving customers in a retail shop on a rainy evening when suddenly paintings started falling off the walls, buildings started to shake and water rose quickly from the floorboards into their buildings.
And that was just the beginning.
Dozens of cars were carried down the street in the raging waters: 120 daring swift-water rescues were made (including one by my friend David Dempster whose human-chain car rescue of a stranded woman was videotaped and has now been seen over a million times).
Over 200 buildings have been structurally damaged. Some buildings are possibly beyond recovery. Two are likely to collapse.
Two people died.
I personally know–as in I’ve been to their house or they’ve been to mine–seven people who own stores and restaurants in the area, and I know as acquaintances and friends a handful of other store and restaurant owners.
A friend of my mother’s, someone she’s known for 25 years, is married to someone I know from my childhood. They were on vacation when the flash floods came. They live–nay, lived, past tense–above one of the buildings where collapse is now likely.
My father’s office is also in Historic Ellicott City. And while he often works late, the flash flood came on a Saturday night and thankfully he wasn’t at the office.
His office is higher up the hill and it suffered less damage than buildings lower. But flooding is flooding, and water damage is water damage.
The entire basement of this built-in-1835 building was flooded and the basement steps were covered in a thick, gray, sludge that was still wet ten days after the flood.
When allowed in by the county, we’ve gone in (me, my dad and a few amazing friends and helpers) to clear out the soggy, damp, water-damaged and muddy items.
The flooding, whether it came from the basement or from the street, penetrated his entire office. His business and operations–while significantly inconvenienced–are recoverable. Unlike so many of the stores and restaurants in the area, he has an office, a land development business, that is not dependent on foot traffic.
But Robin took a heavier blow
My dear friend Robin, who quit her job of 26 years as a nuclear engineer so that she could pursue her dream of having an art gallery, has been devastated by this flood. (That’s Robin on the right. The short redhead.)
She opened HorseSpirit Arts Gallery in Historic Ellicott City less than a year ago. She features and sells all and only work from local artists who live in the county.
I’ve hosted and attended parties at Robin’s gallery, been to her house, met her for coffee numerous times, and have had her and her husband over to my home.
She’s not just a business owner I sort of know. And she’s but one of a handful of owners for whom I could tell similar stories; people I know and care for.
She tried to hold the front door shut against the raging waters. Her customers at her gallery had fled to the second story and were begging–screaming–for her to abandon her post and come to higher ground.
She finally retreated when the waters reached her armpits and the door frame broke.
Not only has she experienced the trauma of witnessing her entire first floor being flooded, having her one-of-a-kind art inventory and store furnishings washed away, but now she has been told that while she had purchased flood insurance, she didn’t have flood insurance for an art gallery and so the insurance company isn’t going to pay anything … even though they knew she owned an art gallery when they sold her the flood insurance.
!!! Seriously ???
A friend has set up a gofundme page for her. Someone else has gathered all the GoFundMe pages for individuals and businesses impacted by the flash flood. Here’s a radio interview where she describes her experience for those of you aurally oriented.
In a flash. In a flash! But how life can change in a flash.