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Harford County residents still displaced after deadly storms more than a month ago

Though 47 residents in Harford County suffered damage from deadly rains at the end of August, the county does not meet the threshold through a federal program for those residents to receive assistance, a county government official said Tuesday.

“The incidents of damage ranged from flooding in driveways to the more devastating ones such as [the one on] Starmount” Court, where the private drive leading to four homes was washed away by raging waters, Cindy Mumby, a spokesperson for Harford County government, said.

Cara Liggett, one of the residents at the end of the Starmount driveway, said she and her family “have been left homeless” by the Aug. 31 rain event.

The paved driveway went over a small tributary to Bynum Run with a culvert running under it, Mumby said.

"Our driveway culvert was washed away as our stream reached 400 year flood levels," Liggett wrote in an email. “We are STILL homeless. We have no water and no sewer. For 32 days now. We are families with children, elderly couples and we want to return home."

Liggett said five school-aged children live among those four homes, including her 6-year-old son who is in first grade at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air.

The driveway provides access to five homes — four on the other side of the Bynum Run tributary. Owners of those for homes are each responsible for 22 percent of the cost of maintaining the driveway; the owner of the home on the court side of the driveway pays 11 percent, Liggett said.

Those Friday evening rains Aug. 31 that displaced nearly a dozen families from their homes also killed two people who were swept away by rising water.

Melissa Lehew, 34, of Darlington, was carried away by floodwaters as she and her boyfriend tried to rescue Daniel Samis, 67, of Abingdon, whose vehicle was stranded in rising water on Calvary Road over Broad Run near James Run in Churchville. Lehew was swept downstream and her body was found three days later in the nearby Churchville Quarry lake.

Samis’ body was found the following morning inside his vehicle about a quarter-mile away from the road.

After the storm, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman toured the county inspecting the damage and in subsequent days officials from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency also looked for damage in addition to what residents reported.

In total, 47 residents suffered damage in some way or another, Mumby said.

For those residents to get low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration to recover and rebuild from the damage, the county must meet a certain threshold — at least 25 homes must have suffered damage to 40 percent of the uninsured property, land or contents, Mumby said.

“It does not look like Harford County met that threshold at this time,” Mumby said. “For folks who were impacted, some of the damage was devastating, but countywide, the threshold was not reached for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration.”

Two families — one on Shucks Road and one on Trappe Church Road — are staying with family members while they restore their houses, Mumby said.

A woman who lives on Arena Road, who suffered flooding in the main living space, has found temporary housing with the help of the Community Action Agency and a disaster assistance coordinator.

The county met with the four families displaced on Starmount Court shortly after the storms to discuss some of their options.

“That roadway is a private road; the homeowners are obligated to repair it,” Mumby said, but added the county is trying to work with them and is helping them explore other options in addition to the Small Business Administration.

“There are other opportunities for funding, but at this point it doesn’t look like we will qualify for anything,” Liggett said.

The county and residents are scheduled to meet again, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, to discuss how to get the work completed as soon as possible, which would include expediting the permit process.

Liggett said in her email she and her neighbors have been denied help from FEMA, insurance and the county.

“The head of DPW, Harford County crisis management and our county executive’s office all offered their thoughts and prayers,” she wrote.

The neighbors have been working together and have received three “serious” estimates, ranging from $236,000 to “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Liggett said. That contractor didn’t even put a price tag on the project, she said.

The two sections of the pipe that ran underneath the bridge are visible on either end of where the bridge was. The ground drops off steeply on either side of the driveway and wooden fences on either side of the drive are broken or hanging over the stream.

“The power of all that rain in such a short period of time is something that’s hard to believe until you see it,” Mumby said.

The damage has gotten worse with each subsequent rain, Liggett, who has lived there for two years, said.

The residents who live on the opposite side of the bridge want the project done right so it’s safe for all for all of them. And they’re hoping to get the project started soon, she said.

“We haven’t been able to live in our homes since we were evacuated by Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company with our son,” Liggett, whose family has been staying with family and friends and in a hotel, said. “We just want to move back home.”

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