by Amanda Pruzinsky
On Saturday, July 30, my boyfriend and I visited Ellicott City, Maryland to sightsee its historic downtown despite the rainy day. No one had any way of knowing that an otherwise ordinary day would end in such devastation. Everyone was chatting about the rain when an alarm hit our smart phones. Another summer storm, another flash flood warning, everyone glances at their phones and continues on with their evening.
Its 8:11 p.m., only a few minutes after the flash flood warning to our phones. The heavy rainstorm had turned into the warned flash flood in less time than I can comprehend. Everyone is glued to the windows in the front of the restaurant yelling over the sound of the raging water, watching even after the basement filled with water, power went out, and alarms came on. We continued watching for over an hour as the river of brown water swept away cars, rolled huge dumpsters, toppled street signs, cut the power lines, and raged like it would last forever.
By 9:33 p.m., the flood retreated and we took to the street to find our car while rescue squads ran in groups down the hill with large yellow rafts. The streets were full of terrified people, all looking unbelievably at the vast holes in the streets and buildings, totaled cars, and wreckage strewn before us.
My heart goes out to all of the people who were there, for the homes and businesses destroyed, and to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives.
These types of weather events happen very suddenly and there is only so much one can do to prepare. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an excellent resource for information on what to do in disasters, such as flash floods, and the agency has a downloadable FEMA mobile app as well. EPA also has helpful information, including natural disaster preparedness and response tips, flood resilience checklist, flood risk management resources, and flood cleanup resources for your home or businesses.
Hurricanes, severe storms, flooding, droughts, and wildfires are increasing in frequency, intensity, or length. Communities are taking action and investing in their continued safety. EPA is partnering with other national and international programs, states, localities, tribes, and communities to develop policies and provide technical assistance, analytical tools, and outreach support on climate change issues.
On the news, I hear plans being discussed to rebuild Ellicott City to be even stronger and more resilient than before. In the height of all of the devastation, there is hope for the future.
About the Author: Amanda Pruzinsky is a physical scientist for the Water Protection Division in EPA’s mid-Atlantic region working to support all of the water programs with a focus on data management, analysis, and communication.