I wanted to update everyone about our situation in Ellicott City. My little town, where my studio is, experienced the worst flooding since hurricane Agnes in 1972. Two people lost their lives and the town in uninhabitable. Many folks lost not just businesses, but livelihoods, memories, keepsakes, and lifetimes of hard work and memories. But worst of all, two people were swept away that night. Most of the buildings will have to be condemned. The waters ripped away whole sidewalks, part of the street, cars were swept through culverts from a half mile up the road where they popped out at the other end of town. 6 inches fell within two hours. One of the reading stations on the river went from 65 CFS (cubic feet per second of water) to over 21,000 CFS!!
This video was taken by my friend Sara Arditti who owns a gallery on Main Street, Still Life Fine Arts and Custom Framing:
For a bit of background, Ellicott City was built in a quaint and picturesque valley that some remark as reminding them of a little European town. It was founded back in the early 1700’s by the Ellicott Brothers as a mill town, attracted by the Patapsco River. On a normal summer day the rivers are no bigger than creeks. Its simply in the background while folks enjoy shopping and dining, smelling honeysuckle growing over the rocks, watching live music in the courtyard or catching up with friends at the local watering hole. But when it rains, the floodplain drains into these branches which run through Main Street, under buildings and roadways, daylighting here and there, until it flows into the Patapsco. And when it pours, everyone who knows the town keeps eyes on the water. I am ever grateful for our community. We are a tight group and we look out for one another. We rally when someone is in need, we celebrate the good things, and commiserate the bad. But when things get epic, we are unstoppable.
Many people have asked how to help. There are a few ways. One is to check with the Ellicott City Partnership at ecpartnership.org. There you will currently find what is needed and where to donate.
Here are some more links for help and donations:
On a personal level, my studio suffered some major flooding. I first became aware of the situation because of the commUNITY facebook page where I started seeing friends’ posts about the flash flood. I didnt think at first that my studio would be affected, but then I saw a post by a friend who is also a neighbor showing her front yard. The river that normally runs under her front yard WAS her front yard. I panicked thinking that my studio which is further upstream, and sits directly ABOVE the Tiber, may have sustained some damage. It did flood back in 2011 when Tropical Storm Isabelle came through but luckily I hadn’t moved in yet. I drove over hand had to sneak in the back way because all of the medical and emergency personnel had the road blocked. I walked up and around behind the hill then down to my shop. I noticed the black top had shifted and buckled and my neighbor across the street’s car was sitting nearly on her front porch. I said a prayer then opened my door.
The smell of paint hit me first, then I put on my phone flashlight and my heart sank. Paintings were floating, chairs were upside down, and as I walked down and in further I saw papers were all over the place, cans, bottles, equipment; all floating in a sea of brown, muddy, smelly water. I quickly began grabbing my paintings, the ones that were for my show “Still Standing” and placed them on tables, I then walked around surveying the rest of my space, I was dumbfounded. No one predicted this!! I could do nothing more than go home and try to sleep before returning in the morning to face the most awful clean up I could imagine.
At the same time as I was discovering my studio, I found out later that friends were trapped in apartments by rising waters and cars blocking entrances. Howard County Fire and Rescue had to evacuate residents and visitors stranded by the torrent. I realized quickly that I was one of the relatively lucky ones. Two people were swept away and perished in the Patapsco, only to be found miles down the river.
We have been washing out and sorting through the contents of my studio to see what I have left. My insurance does not cover flood so I will have to rebuild from my own pockets. I did start a Go Fund Me page to help with repurchasing materials and covering bills while I’m out of commission.
And to top it off, yesterday I sliced my hand open carrying a flat file out to be sprayed off. I tripped on my own feet (not an uncommon thing) and I didn’t want to drop and potentially dent the drawer so it slid off my hand and onto the ground. Thank goodness for the EMT that was driving up the road in a gator, he wrapped me up and then dad took me to All Care for 8 stitches. Thank goodness it missed the tendon, but it was still pretty deep. Almost to the bone.
I am so thankful to live in such a loving and strong town. So many friends and neighbors came by to see if I was ok. Its devastating when something like this happens but its beautiful to witness how we rally around one another.
The first responders were amazing, they came in and began helping people stuck in buildings, high in trees, and trapped in cars. Friends were rescued through second floor windows, some even having to punch through walls, others crawling out from under cars that blocked their doors. The clean up will continue for months and my hope is that people will continue to offer help and support long after the mud and debris has been cleared.