WASHINGTON — “Are we going to die in here, ma’am?”
That was just one of the more than 1,100 calls fielded by 911 operators in Howard County 3:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. as the floodwaters started to rise in Ellicott City on Sunday.
Police released a sample of some of the most dramatic calls.
“I have a lady stuck in a building across the street from me,” one caller on Main Street told dispatchers. “She’s right now standing on top of her counter screaming … she’s screaming at the top of her lungs … the water is getting higher and higher … God, this is worse than the last one.”
“Get to higher ground” was a common refrain for dispatchers but as the water rose to the second floor of some buildings, a noticeable sense of panic began to creep into the voices of the people who were trapped.
“There’s so many of us, there’s like a hundred at least, please help us,” one caller pleaded. “Can’t you send boats or something?”
As the dispatcher tried to assure the caller that rescuers were coming as fast as they could, at one point the caller asked: “Are we going to die in here?”
One of the most dramatic scenes played out at La Palapa Grill and Cantina on Main Street. At one point more than 250 people were stranded inside the restaurant, including people who were attending a wedding party downstairs.
“We’re in the heart of the flood, we got about 250 plus people, there was a wedding underneath us,” the caller told dispatchers. “We tried to get them all up, I just wanted to let you know, we are trying to get everybody up here. I wanted to let you all know because it is going to be crazy.”
One of the people in the restaurant trying to save others was 39-year-old Eddison Hermond.
Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner praised the work of the dispatchers who were operating under heavy pressure.
“They are receiving those calls from people who are terrified, who are looking for help, who are looking for guidance,” he said.
As Ellicott City tries to recover from Sunday’s flash floods, one of its main priorities is keeping people away from damaged Main Street.
Police have erected a series of chainlinked fences to try and block people from accessing the road.
“I just want the residents from Main Street, the business owners, to know that we are continuing to be there 24/7,” Gardner said. “We have just about completed all of the fencing that will go around in the no-access area.”
Gardner said police have recovered more than 200 vehicles from muddy parking lots and roadways that police are trying to return to their owners.
You can listen to all the 911 calls released by Howard County Police below.
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.