By John Bacon and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY
Rescue personnel here were searching Monday for a man missing after rampaging waters roared like a river through the quaint, historic downtown, swallowing cars and flooding stores and homes.
The town was pounded by almost eight inches of rain Sunday. When the flash flooding receded, first responders walked through the ravaged downtown area, Main Street strewn with debris.
The disaster was similar to a flash flood two years ago that killed two people.
(The National Weather issued a flash flood emergency for Ellicott City, Md., on May 27, after 3-6 inches of rain fell in just two hours. Courtesy of the Washington Post and YouTube. Posted on May 27, 2018)
“There are no words to describe the devastation,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said.
Kittleman said residents and business owners were being kept away while authorities determine what structures are safe.
Some locals may be allowed to return Tuesday, he said.
Kittleman said he understands if business owners who rebuilt two years ago decide to walk away this time.
“My heart breaks for them,” he said. “They are going to have to make a tough decision. I will support whatever decision they make.”
Police identified the missing man as Eddison Alexander Hermond, 39, a resident of nearby Severn and an active duty member of the Army National Guard.
County Police Chief Gary Gardner said Hermond was helping hold a door shut to keep water from entering a downtown restaurant when he went out to help a woman find her cat.
At one point, people saw Hermond “go under the water and not surface,” Gardner said.
Ray Miser was sitting on his porch Sunday as at least 2 feet of water began rushing past his home.
“It sure was a sight,” he said. “There were logs and everything just floating like I was living on a river.”
Miser, 77, said he’s watched other floods hit the area, including the 2016 disaster. But his elevated two-story home made it through again. “You just got to pray,” he said.
Gardner said 911 call systems were bombarded with about 1,100 calls that started when the flooding began at about 4 p.m. Sunday.
(One witness says water was coming in through the walls. Witnesses are describing the chaos in Ellicott City, Maryland, where torrential floods left downtown buildings heavily damaged and filled with mud on Sunday. Courtesy of the Associated Press and YouTube. Posted on May 28, 2018)
Fire Chief John Butler said first responders assisted in the evacuations of about 300 people, more than two dozen of them water rescues from “a high level of danger.”
Rescue workers were out in force across the town, 13 miles west of Baltimore along the Patapsco River.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a statewide state of emergency and paid a visit to assess the damage.
“Praying for the brave veteran who has been reported missing following yesterday’s terrible flooding in Ellicott City,” Hogan tweeted Monday. “My heartfelt thanks to all those assisting in the search.”
— Michelle Marsh (@ABC7MichelleM) May 28, 2018
Gardner said many people on Main Street when the flooding occurred showed courage in the face of horror.
“We’re thankful and not just for the first responders,” he said. “A lot of individuals provided the same level of heroic effort, helping pull people out.”
A similar flash flood disaster two years ago battered buildings and swept cars away. But the town rebuilt, and Kittleman said flood abatement efforts have been underway since that time.
“Ellicott City was as prepared as it could be,” he said. “When you have eight inches coming down, terrible things can happen.”
Meteorologists dismissed the 2016 carnage as a 1-in-1,000-year event.
A 1-in-1,000-year rain event is a statistical way of expressing the probability of such a massive rainfall occurring in any given year in a given location, according to the National Center for Environmental Information.
But on Sunday the flooding was back, with stunning video showing a brown wall of water sweeping through the downtown, high as roofs on some cars.
— Howard County Gov’t (@HoCoGov) May 28, 2018
Stacey Corrao, was at her son’s baseball tournament when she started getting calls about the flooding. “Every call they were telling me, ‘It’s getting worse, it’s getting worse,’” she said. “I felt so powerless.”
Water surrounded Corrao’s home and several inches flooded the crawl space beneath. On Monday, it was still draining from a hose placed in the crawl space and threaded out to the street.
“It’s just unbelievable. How can we have a thousand-year storm twice in two years,” she said. “There are no words.”
If you are currently w/out power, @HCDFRS is reminding residents about the appropriate placement to operate a generator and the dangers of running one inside your home or garage, even if the door is open. #ECFlood #HoCoMD #EllicottCityMD pic.twitter.com/6UXSCabWsw
— Howard County Gov’t (@HoCoGov) May 28, 2018
She and other residents blamed local officials for building the area up without having a plan for flooding.
“Of course this is going to continue to happen. There’s construction, more homes and businesses but no where for the water to go once it starts to overflow,” Corrao said.
“We need a plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
(Flashback: More than 180 vehicles were towed as state and local officials survey damage and clear debris off of the streets of the historic district in Ellicott City where six inches of rain in over two hours left several shops in ruin in August of 2016. Courtesy of Fatimah Waseem, Baltimore Sun Media Group. Posted on Aug 2, 2016)
Editor’s note: Our thoughts and prayers are with Army National Guardsman Hermond, and the Ellicott Community.