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Kittleman calls on council to extend state of emergency in Ellicott City

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, at podium, and other Howard County officials held a press conference to provide updates on the recovery and cleanup underway in Ellicott City on July 31. Kittleman has asked the County Council to extend the state of emergency in Ellicott City as crews continue cleanup and secure the city ravaged by flash floods on Saturday, July 30.
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, at podium, and other Howard County officials held a press conference to provide updates on the recovery and cleanup underway in Ellicott City on July 31. Kittleman has asked the County Council to extend the state of emergency in Ellicott City as crews continue cleanup and secure the city ravaged by flash floods on Saturday, July 30. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

County Executive Allan Kittleman called on the Howard County Council to extend a state of emergency after a raging flood swept parts of old Ellicott City into ruin last Saturday evening. Two people perished.

The council observed a moment of silence on Wednesday as it introduced a measure to extend the state of emergency, which Kittleman instituted declared late on Saturday evening and which will expire on Saturday, Aug. 6.

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Main Street remains closed as a massive cleanup and efforts to secure the area continues. The street will be completely blocked off to the media later today on Wednesday.

The council interrupted its August recess to consider the extension of the state of emergency. The council will vote on the measure immediately following a public hearing which will be held at 8 a.m. on Friday.

County code requires the council to authorize any local state of emergency that lasts longer than seven days. Kittleman has said the flooding disaster will last much longer than that.

Councilmembers said they hope the tragedy in old Ellicott City, a flood-prone area which has seen deadly floods since the 19th-century and where routine rains cause pools of water to collect in crannies of the historic area, will result in meaningful policy changes.

County Council Chairman Calvin Ball said he believes climate change contributed to the disaster, which demands "an assertive and forward-thinking approach in how we fund and implement projects that will be more effective in mitigating floods."

Councilwoman Jen Terrasa said the county must expand its approach to managing stormwater by studying the impact of new development, planning and zoning policies, and capital projects.

"We have to talk about the quality, not just the quantity of water. This has to be our big push. We can't just take a project-by-project approach," Terrasa said.

Ball said a project-by-project approach needs to be part of a vision on how to manage stormwater throughout the county.

"It's not only a matter of where the points of impact are," Ball said. "It's a matter of what we are doing as a county to address the issues of our day as it relates to the environment, development."

Terrasa hopes the disaster will prompt officials to establish meaningful policy changes.

"You have to respect the power of water. But you also have to do what you can do to control it. I don't know what policy changes we need, but we do need them."

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