"When it rose, you could hear things hitting the building. The building was moving," Fackler-Berkowitz said. "We've never seen it like this."
"Every time the logs or debris hit the I-beams, it was shaking," Berkowitz said.
Floating dumpsters, moved cars
"I freaked out, I did," said Marissa Jonner, owner of Little Sunshine Trading Co., up the street next to Williams' toy shop, as she and Williams discussed the Tiber raging behind their stores and a flood of water coming down Main Street in front.
"It was shooting in from around all the cars," Jonner said, noting cars parked on the street during the storm caused currents of water toward the shops.
Dumpsters had floated. Cars were pushed sideways in the storm. A plastic kayak or canoe was scrunched almost into a ball in the creek behind O'Toole and Zimmerman's home.
At one point during the early stages of the flood, the experienced Williams managed to get the word out and have at least two cars moved.
"He was running around the streets. Honest to God, I can't say enough about Ed," Jonner said. "If he didn't get that car moved, this store would have been destroyed" because water swirling around the car would have entered the store.
As it is, only Jonner's basement — which she unfortunately had just moved some merchandise into a couple days before — was substantially flooded.
Berkowitz and Fackler-Berkowitz have all 32 years worth of their original glass-art designs in their basement, but they've been around long enough to know to keep things high, they said.
About 2,400 pieces of original art are within a foot of the ceiling in the basement and were safe, Berkowitz said, even though the couple had to rent a pump with a two-inch-diameter hose to remove the more than three feet of water that had flooded in.
The fate of their five-horse-power compressor for sand blasting, which was completely submerged, is less clear, but Berkowitz said it will likely just have to dry out.
Up the hill, Zimmerman and O'Toole faced a far more devastating reality at their home of three years.
"I don't know where to start," O'Toole said of the process of salvaging whatever possible.
As much as the longtime Main Street residents and shop owners know they live in a vulnerable location, they also know what can be done by them — and by Howard County — to help prevent damage to their property.
Jonner said Williams started trying to find people parked in front of their shops an hour before the flooding began.
"He said, 'If these cars don't get off the street, Main Street is going to flood,'" she said, and she saw he was right.
Seeing what kind of debris was coming down the Tiber, which can be a main cause of back-ups and flooding, Williams said, "There has to be a dumping problem (upstream), because all that stuff had to come from somewhere."
Berkowitz said proper consideration is never given to storm water management when new development is considered, including new development all around historic Ellicott City and along Rogers Avenue.
"There are no plans for it. It's really frustrating us," he said. "They're really tying up every ingress and egress in the county into historic Ellicott City."
Berkowitz said his wife called county emergency management officials a week before Hurricane Irene about clearing away debris and trees along the small island near the town in the Patapsco River, which can cause back-ups. But nothing was done.
"They make the decision," he said, "and we swallow it."
A donations collection to help O'Toole and Zimmerman recover from the flooding has been created at http://www.wepay.com/xyheiy, for those interested in helping.