Anjali David watched from the window of Cacao Lane Restaurant as floodwaters rose around her car Saturday night.
Her 2011 Kia Sol was in the second spot in a parking lot at Main Street and Maryland Avenue in Ellicott City.
The car in the first spot was swept away. Her car had shifted and water was up to the window, she said.
"It was devastating," she said. "I woke up this morning and I'm still in shock. There's no doubt this is a major life-changer for me," said David, of Ellicott City.
Until Monday, she hadn't been able to look inside.
To make way for cleanup and salvage work, David's car was one of about 180 vehicles towed by Howard County Police to the Centennial High School parking lot by Monday morning after an historic Saturday night downpour turned parts of the downtown into a raging flood zone, sweeping some cars down the main thoroughfare, according to Pfc. Jeremy Holroyd of the Howard County Police Department. Another 20 cars were still in the Patapsco River, county officials said.
Those who think their car may be in the lot can come to the school, west of Ellicott City's downtown, and verify their vehicle information with police.
Once verified, car owners can look inside and take out items from their cars, but as of now, they are not able to take them away.
If they come with their insurance adjuster, police will allow the adjuster to accompany them and take pictures, Holroyd said.
As of 10:30 a.m., about 15 car owners had come to evaluate their vehicles, he said.
When David, 27, arrived to her car with her 7-year-old son, Paul, she tried using her remote to unlock the car and it did not respond. She was only able to open one door.
Some of what David had in the car, including items in the back seat and some camping gear, was salvageable, she said. Other items, including her first winter coat and some books, were destroyed.
Mike Shoemaker, manager of Shoemaker Country on Main Street, arrived at the lot with his wife and son to check on the status of two vehicles.
They had the shop's 1999 Ford E350 and the family's 2002 Ford Explorer parked in public Lot D, near La Palapa Grill & Cantina, near a line of trees.
The van had about $5,000 of wood and other materials inside for custom-built furniture.
He opened the door and saw the goods were dry.
"Oh, thank God," said his wife, Hannah. "It didn't get soaked."
Mike Shoemaker then went into the work van to see if it would start. He got the engine running. The family SUV's engine also started.
As they still have to evaluate the damage in their store, knowing the cars are salvageable is one less thing for the Shoemakers to worry about.
"It's not going to be a sob story," he said. "But I'm thankful."
Peter Paizs, 65, of Ellicott City, came to the lot to check on his daughter Samantha's Dodge Avenger.
From the outside, there wasn't much damage, but water had filled the car's interior.
The car had been in a public lot near The Wine Bin and had spun around, he said.
He came to find the car and let his insurance provider know where it is. It's too early to tell whether the car will move again or if the family is done with it, he said.
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"This is what you pay insurance for," he said.