Ellicott City residents return to Main Street for first time since deadly flood

WASHINGTON — Residents and business owners on Ellicott City’s flood-ravaged Main Street are finally being allowed to return to their properties to retrieve possessions and survey damage, five days after a torrent of floodwater raged through the historic downtown and killed two people.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced Thursday residents would be allowed to briefly access homes and businesses throughout the day. Owners will have to be accompanied by county emergency personnel, according to an update posted on the Howard County Government’s Facebook page.

Two residents from each address will be allowed to visit for approximately 10 minutes, and they’ll only be allowed to retrieve items that can be transported in containers provided by the county.

Kittleman’s announcement came a day after the county suspended efforts to allow residents to return to their homes, citing the danger of an “imminent” collapse of two flood-damaged buildings.

“As we were beginning to take residents down, we realized that two of the buildings were in the stage of progressive collapse … we were watching vertical walls, and cracks in those walls getting wider and wider and wider,” Mark Miller, Howard County’s public information administrator, told WTOP.

Officials feared a building collapse could cause debris to dam up the Tiber River, which runs along Main Street, leading to the potential for more flooding.

“We have determined that it is now safe for all residents to have at least some visitation into town,” Miller said.

However, the damaged buildings, in the 8100 block of Main Street, will have to be demolished. The timeline for doing so is still unclear. Engineers continued to inspect the buildings Thursday, Miller said.

“A small number of properties are still not accessible, but even those residents will be allowed into town to visually inspect their properties,” Kittleman said in a statement. “Our emergency personnel have worked to ensure that this can be done safely and we truly appreciate the patience of all those who have been displaced.”

Officials estimate the cost of damages from the flooding, which damaged numerous buildings and swept away scores of cars, will run into the millions of dollars.

In the days after the flood, the county evaluated 135 buildings, several of which sustained structural damage and have been deemed unsafe.

Residents have until 7:30 p.m. Thursday to access Main Street buildings. Residents should meet at Saint Peters Episcopal Church at 3695 Rogers Ave. to register to be escorted to their homes, according to the Facebook posting.

The county recommends residents wear solid, closed-toe footwear and long pants. Residents should consider bringing work gloves and eye protection as well as a flashlight.

Residents can call 410-313-2900 for more information.

WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report from Ellicott City

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up