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The Aftermath Of The Flood

September 10, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Retaining Wall Collapses September 8, 2011 along Mulligan Hill Lane, corner of Saint Paul Street


This has been a very busy week, first dealing with the remnants of Hurricane and now Tropical Depression Lee, which dumped record amounts of rainfall, causing the Downtown area of Main Street to flood, and then cleaning up all this mess in the aftermath.  I don’t want this blog getting the reputation of being a “downer” with lots of negative news, but I felt compelled to chronicle the events in my immediate surroundings while fresh in memory, and I beg the indulgence of all who may read this.  I suppose I should have known it was going to be a bad week when I saw animals lined up and marching up the road two-by-two in search of an Ark…

On August 23, the Maryland area was hit with an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale.  This was the largest recorded quake for this area in well over 150 years.  A week later, we dealt with Hurricane Irene, which not only dumped a lot of rain, but caused significant damage with its high winds, leaving almost 300,000 people without power, some for almost a week.  Emergency crews were called in to help from several States as far as 1,000 miles away to help restore power.  I still see power trucks and crews of utility companies from far away places driving around with the local power company, as they work round the clock to bring the last of the neighborhoods online.  Not one week later, we were hit a third time.  This time it was Tropical Depression Lee.  The ground was already saturated with rainwater from Irene as Lee made its way toward us.  We got a soaking rain for two days in advance of Lee’s arrival, all before the center of the storm stalled overhead.  The sheer volume of water overwhelmed the storm-water systems, all designed to absorb rain water, based on tables of 100-year floods in the area.  The rain-waters exceeded that volume.

Link here for the September 7 flooding.

In the wee hours of the morning of September 8, groundwater that was saturated below a 170 year old stone retaining wall, above which sits the oldest Catholic Church and grounds in Ellicott City, became soft and unstable as more rains came down through the night, causing the retaining wall to collapse in a small landslide.  The huge stones and mud from the ground fell onto parked cars sitting there overnight, crushing them in their spaces.  Thank goodness no one was in any of the vehicles, for as you can see, the crushing weight and force would have been fatal.  Soil continued to erode and wash down the hill, creeping closer to the building closest to the wall above, a mere 15 or so feet from the collapsed retaining wall.  The area is now cordoned off while structural engineers assess the safety and stability of the building and its stone foundation.  More pictures of the collapsed wall and crushing force of the stones below:


September 8, 2011. Parked cars crushed by the force of retaining wall collapse. Parish school sits perilously close to eroded soil.


Close-up view of the damage to vehicles


The building which sits atop the hill is part of my Parish, Saint Paul’s Catholic Church.  I remember donating to a bond fundraiser when major renovation work was performed in the 90’s to convert the building from a rectory residence, expanding it into a school. This is one of several bonding and fundraising efforts in a continual campaign to modernize this Church, founded in 1838.

After looking at the damage and possibility this building may come down, I find myself amused at the possibility that discussions with the insurance company may involve a claim exclusion and denial due event being classified as an Act of God.  I wonder how the Pastor will disagree without significant irony in his retort that it was most certainly NOT an Act of God. See?  I knew I could find some humor in there somewhere.

And yet, as I reflect on that, along with the possibility of yet another fundraiser, I’m thinking I might need to become Methodist or Episcopalian post haste – before tomorrow’s mass!  Oh wait, these other denominations will probably want money for tithing too.  Uh oh… maybe it’s not so funny!  Nope!  Looks like it’s time to become an agnostic.

To my readers who have stopped by and messaged me in other ways, thank you so much for your care and concern.  I appreciate you all!


  1. September 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm



    I’m glad no one got hurt.

    Yes, Protestant churches tithe too. 🙂

    Best wishes on all the cleanup.

    Hey send me the address of the church. Maybe I’ll donate a little to help rebuld.

    • September 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Yeah, I need to find me a religion that doesn’t require money. That might be a modern day miracle for sure. 🙂

  2. September 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Definitely need a modern day miracle. And no worries about ‘doom and gloom’ blog, it’s just that so much is happening right now.

    However, I am praying sunshine will out soon enough.

    Smiles to ya!

    • September 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Sunshine? Oh yes! I remember it – it comes from that bright yellow-white orb in the sky that gives off warmth.

      As always Carol, thanks for stopping by. Smiles back to you.

  3. September 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Why is it always the new cars that get crushed in these disasters? Incredible.

    If the the “Rule of 3’s” is alive and well, you should be a-okay for quite a while: earthquake, hurricane, tropical depression. And most politicians live in D.C. proper, not along the coast of Maryland. It just doesn’t seem fair.

    As for finding a new religion, try Buddhism. No tithing, just a life of simplicity and impossible standards for wholesome behavior. Are you up for it?

    • September 11, 2011 at 10:27 am

      Hmmm, no tithing – I like that a LOT! The wholesome behavior part – not so much… 🙂

      As always, I appreciate the drop in.

  4. September 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    These pictures of the flooding show so well what it must have been like there, I hope your car wasn’t among those that got crushed! Thought I would go visit some new blogs this morning and so glad I visited here. Hope you’ll come by sometime.

    • September 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      Nikki, fortunately my car was not among those totally ruined by the collapsed stone wall, although I can think of a few cars I’ve owned in the past that I wouldn’t have minded meeting such an end…

      I’m glad you stopped by and I look forward to reading yours as well.

      • September 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm

        Your photos of the collapsed wall are really dramatic. Would you mind if I used one in a lecture I’m giving on structural failures?

        • September 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm

          Owen, feel free to use the photos as you wish. As dramatic as they may seem, it is nothing like standing next to those crushed cars in person. Quite an awe inspiring sight of the power of hydraulics.

          Thanks for asking.


  5. September 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks, Phil. I hope the recovery goes well. My best to all.

  6. October 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Phil – This is Steve from Alaska! Last time I saw pictures like yours was during our big earthquake in 1964. What a mess. I am thankful you’re safe!

    • October 10, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      Steve! So good of you to stop by. It really seemed like we were in the Conga line of geological and atmospheric activity. We’re back to normal now, gearing up for the upcoming basketball season. Give my best to Jane and the family!

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