Howard County releases 911 calls made during Ellicott City flooding

WASHINGTON — Newly released audio of 911 calls reveals the distress and panic of people trapped in businesses and homes as raging floodwaters overtook Ellicott City’s Main Street on Saturday night, damaging buildings, sweeping away scores of vehicles and killing two stranded motorists.

The audio was released Wednesday “in response to numerous requests from the media,” the Howard County Police Department said on its Facebook page.

One woman who called Howard County 911 provided the address for the Bean Hollow coffee shop on Main Street where eight people were trapped by the rapidly rising water.

“The water is above the door,” the woman said. “It’s coming in the building. We need somebody to come.”

Screams are heard in the background at various points during the three-minute phone call. “The building is buckling!” the woman said.

The dispatcher remained calm, urged the woman to try to get to a higher level and said emergency crews would be dispatched as soon as possible.

“I need you guys to try to get to a higher level,” the dispatcher said. “I know there’s a lot of water out there, but you guys need to get to higher ground.”

Another caller from Portalli’s restaurant down the street said the restaurant was “completely flooded” and at least 100 people were trapped on the building’s second floor.

Similar calls came in from other Main Street businesses, including Phoenix Emporium and Ellicott Mills Brewing Company.

Commenters on Howard County Police’s Facebook page praised the dispatchers.

“As hard and emotional as this was to listen to, I have no idea how dispatch kept their cool and helped the best they could,” one woman commented.

“That dispatcher needs to have a dinner in her honor or something,” another Facebook commenter said. “She was authoritative without being patronizing or bossy, and reassuring while not promising what can’t be delivered.”

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined 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, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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