ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)– A major announcement for downtown Ellicott City, 10 weeks after devastating floods killed two people and washed away homes and businesses, Main Street opened for business Thursday.
The road and sidewalks are open to visitors for the first time since July 30.
“I think it is incredible the way the community has pulled together , how much they have accomplished, how much this city just means to so many people,” said Dee Bihun, who brought her daughter along for the ride.
Main Street has been closed since July 30 when an unforgiving, thousand-year flood ravaged downtown Ellicott City, washing away cars and filling buildings with water.
Audio from a 911 call obtained by WJZ captured the fear onlookers felt: “There are cars flying down the street because of the… oh my god… the floor is buckling.”
Two people lost their lives and dozens lost homes and businesses.
The rebuilding effort was relentless. Months of work was completed in weeks, giving store owners the chance to get their doors open.
“We are ahead of the holiday season, which is the lifeblood of all these businesses here,” said Jon Weinstein of the Howard County Council.
The utility repairs weren’t cheap. The replacements and repairs cost $12 million. About $9 million of that will be reimbursed by federal emergency funds.
Still each volunteer hour helps pay off the county’s cut of the bill.
“We are certainly ahead of what people thought we would be at right now. And again, all credit goes to the residents, business owners, property owners, and our county employees,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
A resilient community, eager to get back on its “Street”.
“People have been here for 20, 30 years that have decided that they are calling it quits, but I think that the important thing is we come back bigger and better than ever,” said Julia Sanger of the Main Street Rising.
Although the street will be open, there is still significant work to go. That means no parking on the street and some sidewalks will be closed for work periodically.
Howard County Emergency Management staff is opening a case study, going door to door, gathering information on exactly what happened that night, so they can better prevent it from happening again.
Officials warn that Tiber Alley will remain closed until Friday at 5 p.m. so that crews may complete additional necessary repairs, and that some access to sidewalks, particularly on Main Street between Old Columbia Pike and Maryland Avenue, may be restricted from time to time as business owners continue work on their properties.
It could be necessary to impose temporary traffic restrictions and flagging operations at times, particularly near Maryland Avenue where county public works crews are rebuilding a retaining wall near the B&O Railroad Bridge.