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The Aftermath Of The Flood

September 10, 2011 13 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!

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Flash Flooding – Ellicott City, Maryland

September 8, 2011 17 comments

Upper Main Street looking eastward 9/7/2011

 

I was away for the holiday weekend and was prepared to write about that experience, especially in view of the fact I deliberately enjoyed it unplugged. I relished the fact I was completely disconnected from the world for a few days.  I was refreshed and looking forward to the tons of e-mails, messages, blog reading, and commenting that awaited me when I returned.  That is, until the weather happened…

I returned home and to work on Tuesday as the remnants of Hurricane Lee, now a Tropical Depression, pummeled our area relentlessly with enormous amounts of rain.  Yesterday from 11 am to near 1 pm, we were hit with a concentrated pocket of more than 5 inches of rain.  The sheer volume of water overwhelmed the saturated ground and storm drain system, turning streets into raging rivers of rainwater.

There was little warning and many cars wound up trapped as they waited, mistakenly in this case, for the bands of rain to subside and the drains to do what they were supposed to do — siphon the storm water off the surfaces of the roadways.  That didn’t happen.  In fact it seemed as though the storm was stalled directly overhead as the rain poured down in torrents all while the flood waters were rapidly rising.  Some motorists took the chance to rush through and made it; others were forced to abandon their cars in the street, to be fetched or towed hours later.

Lower Main Street looking westward

 

My Company owns and manages a number of buildings in the Historic downtown area, so most of my day was spent with any and all our staff surveying the flooding, dealing with power outages, and a lot of bailing and water removal.  The work is not yet done as we’ve gotten more rain overnight and sitting here this morning as I write this, it is still raining.

Well, back to managing the flood waters.  I hope everyone remains dry and safe.  Someone, please send some sunshine our way!

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