Jessica Watsula dropped off her 10-year-old daughter at her brother's house and drove two hours from Pennsylvania for dinner and painting Saturday in Ellicott City — a chance to share an evening with her sister-in-law and two other relatives.
As the four women left Portalli's Italian restaurant on Main Street in the historic district, a wave of floodwater began to sweep their car away, said her brother, Curtis Brubaker Jr. They got out and clung to a telephone pole as a waist-high wall of water washed over them.
Watsula, 35, was swept away and died in the flood, one of two people killed in the worst flooding the city has seen since Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.
Joseph Anthony Blevins, 38, of Windsor Mill, and his girlfriend were in a car caught up in the water. The woman escaped, but Blevins could not. His body was found about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. Blevins' family could not be reached for comment.
Both Blevins and Watsula were found on the banks of the Patapsco River on the Baltimore County side, near where a bridge carries Ilchester Road over the river, police said.
Brubaker, who had been watching his niece, said he drove to Maryland immediately upon hearing about the flood and searched with responders for hours for his sister before identifying her body for the medical examiner after she was found around 2:20 a.m. early Sunday.
"It's going to be a rough loss," he said.
Watsula, of Lebanon, Pa., had an easy, unforgettable laugh, loved to dance and was outgoing, her family said. She and her daughter, Sarah, were inseparable, Brubaker said.
She worked in retail, he said, because the hours allowed her to spend time with her daughter.
Brubaker's wife, Christina Brubaker, who suffered bruising and cuts that required stitches in the incident, did not want to talk about flood, but she said Watsula "was was really easy to get along with, a great aunt, a great mom."