Ellicott City, Md., a small, scenic town in Howard County that is 14 miles from Baltimore, on Monday was still sorting out the damage from Saturday evening’s flash flood, which unleashed 6.9 inches of rain on the area.
The National Weather Service said the rain was “like a once in a thousand years storm,” said Jon Weinstein, a council member for District 1 in Howard County.
Most of the damage occurred along Main Street in the historic downtown district, where some 70 businesses are located in a four-block area.
“Many businesses were very badly damaged,” said Andrew Barth, press secretary for the Howard County government. “Nothing is open and the entire town is closed indefinitely. There’s no damage cost estimate so far. It’s really hard to describe how fast the water moved. I’ve seen flash flooding before, but nothing like this.”
There were two deaths associated with the flooding. “It turned out to be a confluence of horrible circumstances,” Weinstein said. “One victim was washed away trying to get to her car and another was in his car when it was washed away. About 180 cars were removed from the area today. Ten were in the river or channel.”
Weinstein said there were acts of heroism, such as when Matthew Milani, the chef of Rumor Mill on Tiber Alley, led 47 patrons and eight staff members to safety through the roof of the restaurant.
From one end of Main Street, where a river runs underneath some of the buildings in the former mill town, to the top of the street, which has an elevation of about 200 feet, the amount of damage was different, dictated in part by a retailer’s location.
“It was a freak occurrence where the rain hit at the head of the creek and it swelled,” Barth said. “At the bottom, the entire street was swept away. The fronts of the stores were gone and you could see into the basements.”
Weinstein said about four buildings will need to be demolished, 20 have substantial or serious damage and others have varying levels of damage.
Retailers on Main Street include A Diva’z Boutique, contemporary clothing for teens to young adults; Boliwalou, designer labels; Craig Coyne Jewelers; Discoveries, occasion dresses and semiprecious jewelry; Sweet Elizabeth Jane, a vintage-inspired lifestyle store, and Zebop, fashion from around the world. Restaurants, cafés, a wine shop and several pubs are also located on Main Street. “It’s one of the only places where you could go for high tea and get a tattoo,” Weinstein said.
“You can grab wine and go into a real neat hipster run place that has cool clothing,” Barth said. “It’s constantly packed, even during the week it’s busy. It’s a weird area. That’s part of what its charm is. It was very, very popular and it will come back.”