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'Water up to your neck': Flooding displaces six people in Southwest Baltimore; cleanup, aid efforts ongoing

As Anthony Samuels unscrewed the license plate from his totaled 2004 Chrysler Pacifica on Tuesday, he recalled staring helplessly at the river of floodwater that swept it off Frederick Avenue and into the front lawn of the apartment complex in Beechfield where he lives.

Sunday’s flooding had been harrowing: Fire Department rescue crews navigated boats through 7 feet of water to rescue more than 20 people stranded on car rooftops and in a Maryland Transit Administration bus in the low-lying area of Southwest Baltimore. A mobile speed camera floated past as the water just kept coming.

While the destruction in Old Ellicott City six miles away garnered international attention, the same storm displaced at least six people from their homes in Samuels’ neighborhood, and totaled his Pacifica and other vehicles parked on the street.

“I don’t have the money to move right now,” the 56-year-old retired truck driver said. “If I did, I would move.”

The signs of the flood were everywhere: lawns flattened, craters pocking the road where water ripped the pavement away and mud-covered cars with soggy seats and grass stuck in the hoods. People carried damaged belongings out of their houses to drop into giant dumpsters delivered by the city.

Frederick Avenue is expected to be closed between Beechfield Avenue and North Bend Road for a week or more as the Department of Transportation re-paves sections of the street and ensures its structural integrity.

The Red Cross and the Office of Emergency Management have set up an operations center at Stillmeadow Evangelical Free Church at 5110 Frederick Ave., where residents who were affected by the flood may pick up free food and cleaning supplies, and access services.

Flooding closed roads and required evacuations elsewhere in the region. But Beechfield caught the worst of the storm in the city, said David McMillan, the city’s director of emergency management.

Officials have been hosting daily 6 p.m. meetings at the church to provide updates and answer questions and concerns, McMillan said.

Red Cross volunteers spent Tuesday canvassing the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood to check on residents and ask what they needed. Cleanup crews were helping people pump water out of their basements, and BGE was working to restore gas service to the neighborhood, McMillan said.

“If you were down here, you were treading water up to your neck,” he said.

McMillan requested that the canvassing teams ascertain who has water in their basement, whether the basement is finished and whether the resident has insurance.

The city is working to connect residents to the Maryland Insurance Administration to ensure their claims are addressed fairly, he said. Those without insurance were among McMillan’s chief concerns, he told one Red Cross volunteer.

“That’s going to be a trouble spot for the Red Cross and the city,” he said.

As floodwaters rushed down Frederick Avenue and filled their pickup truck outside their home, Crystal and Timothy Will could do nothing but watch and wait.

At first, she asked him whether he thought they should try to move it. Then “a wall of water” began rushing down the street, carrying large chunks of road pavement and other debris, running over the sidewalk, and approaching their front porch.

“It was like watching a river with whitecaps,” said Crystal Mason Will, 66. “We knew we couldn’t go anywhere.”

City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, who represents the area, went door-to-door Monday to check on people and offer city services.

He said he is particularly worried about low-income residents, such as a man who he said had let his car insurance lapse last month or a woman who was already facing eviction when she was displaced.

“We’re trying to connect people who absolutely need it the most to help,” he said.

Laundry City, a nearby laundromat, has agreed to provide vouchers to affected neighbors for free washing and drying, Burnett said.

“We’re just trying to make sure they get the help they need, whether it’s relocation, clothes, toiletries, food or shelter,” he said. “People are deeply disappointed with the situation, but they feel pretty good about the city’s response.”

His biggest message to residents who still need assistance: “Come to the church. We’re willing to help.”

On Wednesday, the Office of Emergency Management will host an open house for those with concerns about insurance claims, safety issues, temporary housing needs and more after Sunday’s flood. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church at 5110 Frederick Ave.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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