Somber day in Ellicott City: How some are coping 1 year after deadly flood

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Friday’s monsoon-like rains were just too much to bear for some business owners in Ellicott City. The anniversary of the town’s deadly and devastating floods was only days away.

“I closed my gallery early for the first time ever. I just couldn’t sit alone in this gallery, like it was the night of the floods,” said Robin Holliday, who owns Horse Spirit Arts Gallery on Historic Ellicott City’s Main Street.

Holliday was in her art gallery on July 30 last year when the raging waters swept away cars, homes and businesses. She was desperately trying to save her business by fighting back the floodwaters.

But it became too much.

“The water got to my chest. The door frame cracked in and the glass shattered. So, I climbed up over the furniture that was floating,” said Holliday.

She was able to make it to safety. With a quivering voice, she said she’s grateful to be here today.

On Saturday morning, Holliday’s new friend Gretchen Shuey stopped by the art gallery.

Shuey owns the Bean Hollow coffee shop that’s not too far from the art gallery. And although the two women had met before, “there’s nothing like a flood to make you hold hands on the day of the flood one year later,” said Holliday as she held on tightly to Shuey’s hand.

“I came over here to get hugs,” said Shuey.

But she was there to give them too, for moral support.

Shuey said it’s a way to cope with the anniversary of the floods.

The anniversary brings gut-wrenching memories of what the town went through. And sadly, not everyone made it out alive. Three deaths are attributed to the floods.

“We remember last year. We lost people. So we want to honor them and we want to say thank you to everybody that helped us,” said Holliday.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman says many of the business owners already knew each other, but the bonds among them changed after the flood.

“Yeah, it’s been amazing, the number of people we’ve been able to meet,” said Shuey. “… And the bond we all have with each other now that we didn’t have before.”

In April, Shuey was able to reopen her coffee shop after the floods had put her out of business. Many of the businesses are back; 93 percent of them, according to Kittleman.

“We want to be happy with how far we’ve come in a year,” said Holliday.

But like much of the town, Holliday is still trying to healing her heart after last year’s tragedy.

“We are all grateful, but it’s also hard,” said Shuey. “The way (we) are going to get through the anniversary weekend is through being able to hug each other, see each other and appreciate everything that (we’ve) gone through this year. Just appreciate the blessings that we’ve had.”

Shuey said they would have never made it if it wasn’t for the people of Howard County and Catonsville.

“It’s been unbelievable. People came and dug out the muck — people we didn’t even know,” said Shuey. “I have customers that built all of my cabinets and donated some. They don’t even drink coffee. I just couldn’t get over how generous and how kind the people in this community are. And that’s what makes Main Street so special.”

Holliday echoes the sentiment.

“It’s why we’re still here,” she said.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article had misspelled Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s name. This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling. 

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