Two people are dead and a state of emergency has been declared in Ellicott City, Maryland after a flash flood ravaged the town on Saturday, 30 July. The two victims were identified by Howard and Baltimore counties as 35-year-old Jessica Watsula and 38-year-old Joseph Anthony Blevins.
The Baltimore Sun reported that the two were swept away by the flash floods. They were last seen in Ellicott City, but were found about two miles down the Patapsco River in Baltimore County.
Watsula, a mother of a 10-year-old, died as she clung to a telephone pole with her mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law as water washed over them. Blevins, from Windsor Mill, Maryland, was with his girlfriend when their vehicle was swept away. She managed to escape.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a declaration of a state of emergency in Howard County, which will help bring in federal assistance. Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman called the flash flood a "terrible, terrible, horrific incident," according to the Sun. County officials have begun to assess the cost of the flood and have shut down Main Street for the foreseeable future as officials continue to secure buildings.
"It's worse than any of us expected it to be," Hogan said as he toured Main Street on Sunday, 31 July. The flash floods had destroyed storefronts, created massive sinkholes and damaged buildings and vehicles. According to the Sun, around 170 cars were being towed from the area and would be released to their owners early in the week.
Robert Frances, director of the county Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits, told reporters that the county has found four or five buildings have been destroyed and another 20 to 30 are heavily damaged. Residents and business owners have been banned from downtown.
"We've never seen such devastation in Howard County in over 50 years," Kittleman said, according to CNN. "In the past, it had been bad. It has never been close to being this bad." He continued: "We talked to a lot of people who said they have very little time to get ready. It also shows nature is awfully powerful, folks. We are not in control and we have to be ready."
Videos of the flood shows vehicles being swept away in roads turned into rivers of brown, murky water. "People formed human chains to help out others," Andy Barth, spokesman for the County Office of Emergency Management, said.
"It looks like a war zone," Kittleman said. "Or as Lieutenant Governor [Boyd] Rutherford told me, like a set from a disaster movie."
Authorities do not know of any other people who are missing, Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner said. Flooding also affected North Baltimore, the Sun reported.