ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — For the first time since Sunday’s flash flooding, residents and business owners are able to get a personal look at damage wrought by the torrents of murky brown water flowing down Main Street — at least for a few minutes.
The Howard County government is orchestrating escorted visits to Main Street, Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but only for credentialed residents, business owners and property owners.
The historic downtown is cordoned-off, behind yellow police tape, manned by local and state law enforcement, in part for public safety, and also to reduce the possibility of looting.
One of the first residents at the chain link fence blocking access was Kay Robbins, who owns two Main Street properties, and runs her architectural firm from a second story unit.
“We’re going to try to get out the computer, so we can set up our business in my house, up the street,” she said.
Robbins said the 2016 flood resulted in having to take out a half-million dollar loan for repairs and renovations, including $30,000 to clean mud from the basement of her properties.
She’s hopeful they weathered Sunday’s storm.
“When we fixed our building last time, we were anticipating this would happen again,” Robbins said, of her 2016 rebuild. “We were wishing it wouldn’t happen so soon.”
Robbins had taken several steps to make the buildings more resilient, since they literally have the Tiber Creek flowing beneath it. If she steps onto her back patio and looks down, she sees the creek running below.
“It’s normally so well behaved,” she said of the waterway, which snakes along Main Street. During Sunday’s flash flooding, the raging creek washed away a 25-foot portion of Ellicott Mills Drive, near its intersection with Main Street.
“We concreted up all the openings in the basement, and put in pressure-treated materials,” she said. “Hopefully, it worked.”
“Originally, those buildings were done as a perfect historic preservation, with all original materials,” Robbins said. “This time we pretty much used disposable materials, knowing we could just rip it out and replace it.”
Despite the financial challenges the 2016 and 2018 floods pose, she said the historic charm and beauty of buildings along a normally-quiet creek has rooted her in Ellicott City and allowed her to get low-interest loans to restore her properties after the July 2016 devastation.
“This was a mill town, and so everybody wanted to be here because they used water power for the mills,” she said. “Our building up there still has a mill in the basement, a beautiful old historic thing.”
For access, residents and business and property owners will have to check in at the George Howard Building, at 3430 Court House Drive.
According to the county’s flood recovery website participants will be transported on a first-come-first-served basis to Main Street, where they will be allowed 10 minutes in their property to look around and gather as many personal belongings as they can manage to carry.
No personal cars will be allowed in the downtown area.
Some will likely snap photos of the damage, since contractors and guests will not be granted access, according to the county.
When visiting the flood-ravaged area, sturdy work or hiking boots are recommended, as well as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, work gloves and eye protection. A flashlight would be useful in the case of power outages.
For more information, residents can call 410-313-2900, or visit the county’s flood recovery site.
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