Frustrated by a lack of aid to rebuild or repair their homes from the devastation of Tropical Storm Isabel, hundreds of eastern Baltimore County residents packed the Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Department hall last night for a meeting with state and local officials.
Many had questions about loopholes in the National Flood Insurance Program and complained of problems with insurance assessments.
"It's not the intent of the National Flood Insurance Program to make your life more difficult," Joseph Buzzelli, claims manager for the program, told the crowd.
But scores of residents told him and other officials that their experience has shown otherwise.
"There are so many loopholes," said Rick Morris, whose house on Nollmeyer Road on Seneca Creek was left uninhabitable by Isabel. He has been told that even though he has flood insurance, the damage to his house is not covered.
He and many other residents stood in line last night to have individual concerns addressed and attempt to figure out what they could do next. They had a range of questions - from what to do about mold to the height requirements for rebuilding homes.
Many were angry to discover that the federal government and their insurance companies will cover only a fraction - if any - of the cost to rebuild. Some said they had been told by real estate and insurance agents that they didn't need or couldn't get flood insurance, only to find in the wake of Isabel that that wasn't the case.
Betty Lookadoo, an office manager who lives in Bowleys Quarters, brought with her a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency addressed to her mortgage lender that said she was not required to have flood insurance for her house.
"I listened to what this paper said," Lookadoo said, pointing to the letter. Now, she is not sure how she will finance rebuilding her flooded home, which is scheduled to be torn down Saturday.
"That's the problem. We're not going to be able to solve this with a bake sale," said Del. Patrick L. McDonough, one of the 7th District's state legislators who sponsored the meeting. "We need to do something for these people."
In raucous meetings last month, hundreds of residents of eastern Baltimore County packed the Bowleys Quarters hall and Sparrows Point High School, demanding that federal, state and local officials give them answers to help them rebuild their lives and homes.
Many had been living in water- and oil-soaked homes, without electricity, telephones and plumbing after Isabel's devastating storm surge flooded east-side coastal areas.
The electricity has been restored, telephone lines repaired and the flood waters have receded.
But many residents said they lost thousands of dollars in property, including their homes, cars and personal belongings, and still don't know where to turn for answers.
In eastern Baltimore County, more than 3,000 homes will have to be repaired and another 326 will probably have to be torn down and rebuilt, officials have estimated.
Lately, McDonough said, "it's as if it happened and it's over. We're the orphans of Isabel."