One woman trapped in a building on Main Street in Ellicott City on Saturday called 911 in a panic as cars carried by historic flood waters went "flying" down the street and water began to seep through the floor, according to 911 tapes released by Howard County police on Wednesday.
"The water is above the doors coming in the building, we need someone to come in," the woman told 911 dispatchers. About eight people were trapped in the Bean Hollow Coffee and Roastery cafe and were having trouble getting to the second level of the building, she told dispatchers.
The 911 tapes shed light on how people trapped in buildings tried to reach higher ground and help others as more than six inches of rain fell within two hours, sending torrents of water through Main Street. Jessica Watsula of Lebanon, Pa., and Joseph Anthony Blevins of Windsor Mill were killed amid the flooding, and several buildings were completely destroyed.
The woman trapped in the Bean Hollow cafe was on the phone with dispatchers as water began to infiltrate the building. Floodwaters outside were about a foot deep, she estimated.
"There are cars flying down the street," she told dispatchers. "The floor's buckling."
Then, she and others began to scream as water broke through the floor.
Eventually, the people trapped were able to find stairs to a second level of the building.
In another call, a man tells a dispatcher that he is at Portalli's Italian Restaurant and that about 100 people went to the top floor of the building. There was nowhere for them to go, he said. "It's rapidly rising."
Another caller told dispatchers that people were being swept away in the floodwaters.
"We have seen people in cars and people clinging on to cars being swept away down the street," he said.
One woman was sheltering in her second floor Main Street apartment with several people who had come in from off the street, but the water rising, she told dispatchers.
"The water is getting very close to the second floor level at this point," she said. "It's about three feet from the second floor, maybe four." The group was trying to get to another apartment that had a third level.
At the Phoenix Emporium, a bar, a man said 15 to 30 people were trapped inside and asked dispatchers if the power in the area had been cut off. The basement had completely flooded and about two feet of water took over the first floor of the building.
"I'm unsure of what I should be doing," he said as a dispatcher told him to try to get the people inside to higher ground.
Another woman sheltering on the top floor of Ellicott Mills Brewing Company told dispatchers her group was safe but that "flooding is an understatement."
"Ma'am, we are completely aware," the dispatcher responded. "We're trying to get out there as quick as we can."