Officials are seeking federal assistance to help residents and businesses whose property was lost or damaged in the flood that ravaged historic Ellicott City on Saturday, and scheduled an information session Monday afternoon at which locals can learn how to apply for recovery relief.
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said the cleanup could take "months, probably years." Kittleman said he could not yet estimate the cost of the damage.
Main Street remained closed as cleanup crews shore up buildings and clear mud and debris from the street, Kittleman said. He said the county was planning to invite property owners to view the damage soon.
"I know a lot of people are frustrated that they cant get down to Main Street," he said, but "it's a disaster area down there. It looks like a war zone."
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski toured Ellicott City's Main Street Monday morning.
"I have never seen devastation like this," she said.
Kittleman said state and county agencies would be available at the information session, scheduled for 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the Ellicott City 50+ Center on Frederick Road.
The county was also setting up a "disaster assistance center," he said, where residents and business owners can seek additional information in the coming weeks.
Sen. Ben Cardin planned to attend the information session Monday.
"Our congressional delegation will move quickly to facilitate the emergency help needed for families, communities, homeowners, and small businesses to recover from this disaster," he said in a statement.
More than 170 cars have been removed from Main Street or nearby parking lots and relocated to Centennial High School, Kittleman said. Car owners may call 410-313-2900 to find out how they can retrieve them.
Efforts to safeguard Ellicott City from flooding predate the weekend, Kittleman said, citing the town's flood advisory work group.
Asked whether the county will require local businesses or residents to buy flood insurance, Kittleman said such insurance is hard to come by in Ellicott City, given its precarious position.
"It's very difficult to get flood insurance down here," he said. "This has been a floodplain for 300 years."
Kittleman said there is a limit to how effective resiliency efforts can be in especially large storms.
"No matter what stormwater mitigation efforts we had, when you had a thousand-year flood, when you had nearly six inches of rain in two hours, you're not going to be able to sustain that," he said.
Mikulski joined Kittleman in praising first responders and local residents for their rescue efforts during the flood.
"It really shows that the people here have such grit," she said.
Howard County Council Chairman Calvin Ball expressed optimism about the cleanup efforts.
"We're going to rebuild," he said. "We're not going to let any natural disaster beat us."