July floods damaged Westminster maintenance shop, 'heroics' saved vehicles

July floods damaged Westminster maintenance shop, 'heroics' saved vehicles
Flooding at the city of Westminster Department of Public Works' utility maintenance shop on July 25. Heavy rains pushed a torrent of flood water from nearby bodies of water to and through the shop's first floor. (Courtesy photo)

A torrent of flood water rushed through a city of Westminster Department of Public Works’ facility on July 25, damaging the building extensively and prompting utilities workers to salvage expensive equipment.

City officials estimate the damages to cost between $150,000 and $175,000.


“We had about three feet of water to flow through our utility maintenance shop,” Jeffrey Glass, Westminster director of public works, told officials and the public at a Mayor and Common Council meeting Monday. “We’re still in a bit of disarray.”

The utility maintenance shop sits near the intersection of Cranberry Road and Old Manchester Road — an area susceptible to flooding. It’s essentially at the confluence of the west branch of the Patapsco River and Cranberry Creek. As water levels in the creek reached historic levels that Wednesday, water rushed to and through the shop.

Workers braved the fast-flowing deluge to reach the utilities fleet — backhoes and loaders, utility and specialty trucks — and drive the vehicles to higher ground, said Glass, who was on the scene.

“That was the heroics of the employees of the utilities maintenance department,” Glass said. “It was probably upwards of [$750,000] worth of wheeled equipment that we were able to get out before the water got ’em.”

A few workers remained moments longer than the rest, retrieving the last vehicle in a daring escape, Glass told the Times.

“They brought one of these big rubber-tire loaders and one guy was driving it; the others, I think there was three of them, were in the bucket of the machine,” Glass said. “They elevated it above the water level that was as high as the top of the wheels.”

The high flood waters also topped public works’ flood tracker.

Glass said memorialized high-water marks at the department’s former water treatment plant — just across the street from the maintenance shop — contextualized the magnitude of the flooding. The previous high marks were from Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and then Hurricane Eloise in 1975, he added.

He told the Times his department recorded 3½ inches of rain during the July 25 storm, which wasn’t a hurricane or tropical storm, and the deluge easily surpassed previous marks from the two hurricanes.

“It all fell within about a little less than an hour,” he said. “So it was the intensity of the storm … that was the problem.”

The intense floods caused extensive damage. While workers were able to save pricey vehicles, some equipment remained and was mostly submerged. The first cost was employing Servpro — a cleanup and restoration company.

Servpro had to cut out drywall and the brand-new flooring, which had to be dried, Glass said. The utilities maintenance shop also kept all its records on the bottom floor, “all that stuff had to be remediated.”

Servpro’s restoration efforts cost $28,000. But the city has insurance for the maintenance shop, Glass told council Monday. The deductible is $25,000.

But insurance will only replace items’ current value, so the city will accrue cost in order to replace old equipment. Glass estimated replacement costs to be in the region of $30,000.


The insurance deductible and replacement costs will call for a budget amendment, said City Administrator Barbara Matthews.

Westminster probably won’t have to cut from other important initiatives, as the money will likely come from the city’s water and sewer funds, which has rainy day funds, she said. “We do have reserves.”

In the meantime, some utilities maintenance workers have squeezed into the already cramped second floor, while “most are operating out of their trucks,” Glass said. “But the utility maintenance department doesn’t complain. … They’re troopers.”