Michele Bickley, who is eight months pregnant, stands on her porch in the west end of historic Ellicott City, surveying photos and other mementos that were damaged during a flash flood Wednesday, Sept. 7. Bickley had just moved into the home with husband Colin and two-year-old daughter Kianna a week before the flood. (Photo by Kevin Rector, Patuxent Publishing / September 13, 2011)

When the water rushed into town, it was quick and powerful, inundating basements in minutes and smashing through fences and doors.

When it rushed out, it left residents with an arduous recovery on their hands, and an uneasy sense of vulnerability.

Almost a week after a flash flood hit historic Ellicott City on Wednesday, Sept. 7, the destruction it caused was still evident — especially along the quarter-mile "west end" residential stretch of Frederick Road, which is up the hill from Main Street, away from the popular bars and shops.

West end residents said they don't have the resources to rent dumpsters like businesses down the hill. And Howard County, they said, has done nothing to help them remove the mounds of destroyed belongings from their backyards, sidewalks and stoops.


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"This is a disaster," said Frank Durantaye, who has lived on the historic strip for 22 years. "The county's got to respond and come over and see what they can do."

County fire and rescue teams evacuated the street's residents during the height of the flooding, and did a commendable job, some neighbors said. And the county also dropped off three pages of information on FEMA resources, local trash collections, landfill drop offs and Waste Management Inc.'s provision of one free "bagster," which the company calls a "dumpster in a bag," to each household.

Each green, canvas-like bag is 8 feet long by 4 feet wide by 2.5 feet deep and can hold up to 3 cubic yards, or 3,300 pounds, of debris, according to the company's Web site.

But those numbers are more impressive than the actual bags, which were filled within hours of the water receding, residents said.

They called for more, with no luck. They called for the filled ones to be taken away, and were told pick-up won't be until Friday, Sept. 16.

"It would have been a lot better if they had put a dumpster (at) every few telephone poles," said Darlean Carter, 56, who has lived on the street her entire life and said last week's flooding hit the west end harder than any storm in her lifetime.

"It was worse than Agnes," she said, referring to the historic 1972 hurricane that flooded much of the lower part of town with almost 15 feet of water.

Basements flooded, cars tossed

The flash flooding was caused by the last swirls of Tropical Storm Lee, which helped drop an estimated 10 inches of rainfall on the area between Sept. 5 and Sept. 9, according to the National Weather Service.

The worst of the flooding in Ellicott City came along the stream that flows east through the west end to join the Tiber River as it flows under downtown shops.

The stream backed up and roared out of the channel meant to contain it, rushing in waves into homes and hurling debris everywhere.

The torrent caused extensive damage as it flooded Main Street with knee-deep water. Shop owners reported five feet of water in their basements. Dumpsters floated. Cars were tossed. The Tiber swelled as it met the Patapsco River, reaching to the bottom of the historic high-water marker at the B&O Railroad Museum, though well below Agnes's record.

The basement apartment of Kelly Zimmerman and Scott O'Toole, along the stream bed, was completely submerged in water and destroyed. By Tuesday, friends had managed to raise more than $6,000 in donations for the couple, who plan to stay in the town.

A large stone wall on Mulligans Hill Lane collapsed, crushing six cars. The cars have since been removed, and a large mound of rocks is in place to support the hill above.

Roads throughout the county, including Route 29 South, were closed due to flooding.

Kevin Enright, a spokesman for County Executive Ken Ulman, said a total damage estimate is not available because the county has no way to record claims that people make to their private insurance companies.