As Ellicott City flood recovery continues, other Howard public works projects stalled

Kate Magill
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

It’s been just over two weeks since devastation struck Ellicott City with the second deadly flood in two years, and crews have made progress in cleanup efforts on the historic Main Street.

Much of that work is thanks to crews from the county’s Department of Public Works, which in the days immediately after the flood deployed 40 workers to Main Street to begin cleanup efforts. As of June 12, there were 20 workers on the street, expected to go down to 10 in the next few days, according to county spokesman Andy Barth.

The department’s shifted focus to disaster recovery has meant other projects have had to shift their timelines, said department director Jim Irvin.

Other projects, including highway maintenance, annual storm drain repairs and traffic calming efforts, have been set back by as much as a month.

Beyond immediate cleanup efforts on Main Street, Irvin said crews must also spend time clearing muck out of storm drains that became clogged by recent flooding and longstanding tree maintenance that became more urgent as floodwaters undermined roots.

In comparison to the 2016 flood however, Irvin said the county is in better shape. At this point in recovery two years ago, he said the department was as much as two months behind schedule in its other projects. That improvement is due in part, Irvin said, to learning from experience.

“The damage was more extensive this time, but we’ve learned how to get on it and fix it quicker,” he said. “We know how to do the work plans and use the right contractors. Last time, Ellicott City is so old there were just so many surprises and things nobody knew were there. . . but we pretty much know what’s there now.”

Irvin spends half of his time on the job focused on the flood, including daily trips to Main Street. The two officials who spend some of the most time focused on recovery now are Director of Emergency Management Ryan Miller and County Executive Allan Kittleman, according to Barth.

Irvin said he expects that his time spent on recovery will wind down some next week as immediate repairs to Main Street are completed, but that other initial repairs projects, including repairs to Ellicott Mills Drive, will likely take several months to complete.

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