ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman is still coming to grips with the terrible déjà vu of Sunday’s raging flood in Ellicott City, the town’s second in less than two years.
“I keep thinking that my wife’s going to reach over and wake me up and this is a dream because I just can’t imagine this happening again,” Kittleman said at a Wednesday night meeting at Howard High School for people directly affected by the flood.
With many home and business owners still deciding whether or not to rebuild, Kittleman offered reassurance.
“We need you to make the decision that’s best for you, and we will support you,” he said. “I love Ellicott City, I want Ellicott City to continue, and I want Ellicott City to be strong; but I want you to be stronger, and I want to do whatever we can to help you.”
County Police Chief Gary Gardner said the hardest-hit areas have been fenced off and his department, along with members of the Maryland State Police, are providing constant 24/7 security.
He said no thefts from flooded properties have been reported.
One hundred ninety-eight vehicles have been towed from the area and taken to the police department’s training facility where they are being held in a secure, monitored area.
The county’s Department of Public Works has been busy, too.
“We’ve got most of the debris off the paved surfaces and we were focusing today on trying to get some of the blockages out of the channels around town, particularly Ellicott Mills and the Tiber (Creek),” said Director Jim Irvin. “We’re going to continue that in the next couple of days and hopefully have those opened up entirely and try to get ready for the next rain event.”
Kittleman said 92 percent of gas service that was lost has been restored by Baltimore Gas and Electric.
“We’ve got a lot of devastation in a lot of places, but it seems like utilities aren’t as devastated as they were the previous time,” he said. “So that, hopefully, will not be as long for us to get them back up for everybody.”
Weather permitting, credentialed home and business owners will be allowed to visit their properties between 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday.
“If you have water in your basements, or need to have water (taken) out, talk to contractors now and see if they can come on Sunday to help you,” Kittleman advised.
Maryland senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen attended the meeting and talked about the federal government’s involvement in the recovery.
They said Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives visited Ellicott City Wednesday, the Postal Service is connecting flood victims with their mail and the Small Business Administration is offering help.
“They’re here in order to make it clear that if (business owners) need loans, there’s disaster loans available,” said Cardin. “If they (already) have loans, there are certain types of relief that can be given as far as payment schedules.”
“The major question going forward is going to be what can be done to prevent another flood from having these disastrous consequences,” Van Hollen said.
The county has opened a Disaster Assistance Center with representatives from 20 agencies, providing a one-stop shop for flood victims.
It’s located at the Ellicott City 50+ Center on Frederick Road, and it will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. 5 p.m.
“Whatever your needs are we are here to walk with you, alongside you, throughout this recovery,” said Jackie Scott, who is county Director of Community Resources and Services and is in charge of the center.
There was a moment of silence at the meeting in honor of Eddison Hermond, the National Guardsman from Severn who was washed away and killed in the flood while trying to help a woman.
“He didn’t have to do what he did,” Kittleman said. “He was safe, and he saw someone else who needed help, and he went to help. I tell you, that just speaks volumes about a gentleman, his character, his integrity.”
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