ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — There were unfortunate setbacks Wednesday in the flooding recovery efforts in Ellicott City. Inspectors say buildings are on the verge of collapse, preventing people from getting inside their homes and businesses to assess the damage and maybe salvage some items.
The rushing floodwaters damaged 135 buildings in the historic town. Howard County authorities granted WJZ access to Main Street for the first ground-level view of the extensive damage.
“It’s a widespread disaster site. It takes a while to digest,” said Capt. Mike Sharpe, Howard County Fire Department.
A short time later, two buildings nearly collapsed.
Bob Frances, director of the county’s Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits, said the buildings are currently in a “progressive collapse situation” and demolition is the only option.
A large portion of the wall that connects the buildings — one two-story structure and one three-story structure — is gone, he said.
The addresses are 8101, 8107, 8109 and 8113 Main Street. The different levels of the buildings have different street numbers, which is why there are more addresses than buildings affected, according to Frances.
“The good news is… these will be able to be removed without too much additional impact to the other buildings,” he added.
The announcement came just as residents were being allowed to visit their homes for the first time since the flooding occurred. Those visits were halted immediately.
“Nobody wants you guys back in sooner than we do, but we have to make sure you’re safe, we have to make sure the folks working down there are safe,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
Already, due to safety concerns, residents had to register at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church to be escorted to their homes by designated personnel, and were only going to be allowed in for a few minutes to grab essentials.
“We’ve been telling folks Ellicott City is going to be rebuilt stronger than ever, and we’re telling people that the people of Ellicott City are not going to let this storm defeat us,” Kittleman said.
More than $15,000 has been raised for the two victims of the flood — a father of three, Joseph Blevins, and a mother, Jessica Watsula.
“I sat down, trying to take it in. Just no way,” said Dean Cover, Watsula’s pastor.
Authorities have been able to recover a symbol of hope… the iconic clock is back in place — frozen at 9:20 — the time when floodwaters ripped it from the ground Saturday night.
“No one can feel your pain like you can feel your pain, but I hear it, I see it, I feel it, and there’s no way I’m going to put the community in danger,” said Chief John Butler, Howard County Fire Department.
Everyone is patiently waiting for when they can return home.
“I just know and recognize it’s going to take a while, but I know it’s going to be beautiful again,” said Haynes.
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