By Colin Campbell, Kevin Rector and Natalie Sherman, The Baltimore Sun
9:50 PM EDT, May 1, 2014
The Baltimore area's biggest late-April storm system in decades dumped as much as 7 inches of rain in some parts of the region, closing schools and businesses as rainwater overflowed tributaries and sewers, toppled trees and flooded roadways.
About 20 people evacuated when their Charles Village street collapsed onto a CSX railroad track Wednesday joined hundreds in Laurel displaced by the storm, which tied a 1947 record with more than three inches of rainfall at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Wednesday alone.
As the clouds parted and central Maryland's several-day deluge ended, residents, local officials and businesses took stock of the torrential downpour's toll.
Dozens of roads in the region remained closed into Thursday, including Compromise, Newman and Dock streets in downtown Annapolis. Commuter schedules on MARC trains were disrupted by as much as 90 minutes as crews worked to clear fallen trees.
Public school in Harford and Charles counties were delayed two hours due to flooded roads.
The temporarily displaced Laurel residents, including those at a senior apartment complex, were told to leave Thursday morning when officials discovered leaks in the nearby Duckett Dam and decided to open its gates because of concerns about the structure's stability. The water rushed through the area, closing Route 1 and the city's main street and causing a foot-high flood at one car dealership near the MARC station.
In Baltimore County, the floods poured 1.6 million gallons of sewer and rain water down Dulaney Valley Road in Towson's Eudowood neighborhood, and 25,000 gallons overflowed at both the Frederick Road Station in Catonsville and the Essex Pumping Station on Riverside Drive, according to the Department of Public Works.
Along the Jones Falls, many business owners said the water levels rose to the highest they had seen since the 1970s, bursting through doors, devastating inventories, and sweeping cars and dumpsters downstream.
At the distribution center Komar Co., which has operated from Clipper Mill Road since 1992, manager James Womer estimated $1 million worth of damage from the water, which circumvented riverside floodgates and poured through the parking lot. Water rose 3 feet inside the complex — far higher than the 2 inches previously observed, said Womer, who returned to the building around 8 p.m. Wednesday after evacuating earlier that afternoon
"The worst ever," he concluded. "It was running just like a river through here."
The whir of vacuums and fans filled the air Thursday at Mount Washington Mill and Meadow Mill, where crews of rainbooted workers emptied the remains of stores into parking lots. Some longtime tenants said they had experienced worse damage in previous storms, but had never seen water so high. While Whole Foods and Starbucks reopened Thursday, others, harder hit, said they need to assess the damage.
Samuel Himmelrich of Himmelrich Associates, which owns Mount Washington Mill and 3600 Clipper Mill Road, said the extent of the storm was unexpected.
"We're doing everything we can to assist our tenants with their businesses," he said.
Water traveled throughout the first floor of 3600 Clipper Mill Road, soaking the Meadow Mill Athletic Club squash courts and pouring into the manufacturer Mouth Party Caramel.
Owner B.G. Purcell, who founded Mouth Party Caramel in 2007 with a family recipe passed down from her step-mother, said she had hoped this year would be one of expansion for the candy manufacturer. The flood may have wiped out those plans, along with more than $100,000 in ingredients and equipment — including a 1942 candy wrapper machine she found that had allowed her to stop packaging the sticky caramels by hand, without sacrificing the festive twist-off wrapper.
"We had a lot of good things coming down the pike for us in terms of growth," she said, noting she had hoped to increase revenue from $400,000 to more than $500,000. "It really is devastating."
The Badr family was two weeks away from opening their own pharmacy at Mount Washington Mill, an enterprise years in the dreaming, months in the making and some $400,000 in investment.
"What delayed it was we always thought it was risky, we just didn't think it would be that risky," said Shahir Badr, an engineer whose wife Hanna is a pharmacist. Badr estimated they had lost some $200,000 due to the flood. "We were in tears."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun