Wearing matching "I Survived Hurricane Isabel" T-shirts, Michael and Sharon Grosscup were among the first in line as the Disaster Recovery Center in eastern Baltimore County opened its doors yesterday afternoon.
The storm had destroyed their one-story home at Watersedge in Dundalk, two cars and nearly all of their possessions, and the Grosscups wanted to find out what kind of help they might obtain from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from state and county agencies. The storm hit the county's east side harder than any other part of the state.
"We've worked our whole lives, and one night that life was washed away," Sharon Grosscup said.
Three Disaster Recovery Centers opened yesterday - in Middle River, Annapolis and Fells Point - to help those whose homes and property were damaged by tidal flooding from Tropical Storm Isabel.
"We can't make them whole again," said Win Henderson, a FEMA spokesman. "But we can help them with temporary housing and give them information about low-interest loans."
FEMA can provide grants for home repairs not covered by private insurance. Low-interest, long-term loans will be available from the federal Small Business Administration for homeowners, renters and business owners.
The Grosscups, who escaped with a trash bag of clothing and have been living with relatives, talked with FEMA employees and with representatives from the Baltimore County Rehabilitation Program and the county's Department of Social Services. Next was the Salvation Army, then the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Sharon Grosscup was happy to receive gift cards to buy her son, Justin, 16, school supplies. He returned to Sparrows Point High School yesterday.
"Tonight, we have to get him a pair of shoes," she said.
Michael Grosscup said FEMA officials told him his house along Bear Creek, where the family has lived for 20 years, is uninhabitable.
"We want to get some help so that we can rebuild," he said.
Representatives from FEMA, the Maryland Insurance Administration and other state and county agencies helped nearly 50 residents in the center's first two hours of operation yesterday.
The agencies also provided phones for residents who are without service. Residents have to register by phone with FEMA before they can meet with representatives one-on-one for assistance.
Even though she didn't get exactly what she came for yesterday, Helen Blowers of Baltimore was optimistic about the services provided at the FEMA center in Fells Point.
Blowers said she hoped to obtain a low-interest loan to help her family repair damage to its Fell Street home, which was flooded after a conduit overflowed at high tide. Water gushed in like a fire hose, she said, and moved the water heater and furnace.
Blowers said she didn't qualify for the loan but is hopeful that FEMA will approve other assistance. She also picked up some literature from an information tables about what to do with traumatized children.
"She was very terrified when water was coming up the street," Blowers said of her 2-year-old granddaughter, who accompanied her to the center yesterday.
The center provided information from the Maryland Insurance Administration, Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., the American Red Cross, the Internal Revenue Service and an agency providing business loans.
By closing time yesterday, 22 people had found their way to Anne Arundel County's FEMA center, a cramped corner on the third floor of the Arundel Center in Annapolis.
Manager Connie Gilmore said people applying for federal funds first fill out an application by phone and then visit one of several tables to gather information on the type of aid available.
People needing temporary housing, rental assistance, home repairs, home replacements, help with medical and dental expenses, transportation reimbursement or other assistance can call toll-free 800-621-3362 to begin a claim. For the hearing or speech impaired, the number is 800-462-7585.
Volunteer attorneys from the Maryland State Bar Association are offering free legal advice to victims of Hurricane Isabel through a toll-free hot line at 866-858-0039.
Sun staff writers Matt Whittaker and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.