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Unveiling of painting found in Ellicott City flood symbolizes recovery

Kittleman: "We want to avoid putting any more Band-Aids on this problem."

The night of a deadly flash flood in late July, artist Dee Cunningham pulled paintings submerged in nearly 2 feet of water from her studio in historic Ellicott City.

Among the muck, water and floating artwork, one mural — a 4 by 8 foot panel of the CSX tracks in the historic district that was propped up against her office wall — was nearly untouched.

The flood left a faint watermark 2.5 feet from the bottom.

On Friday, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and Cunningham unveiled the painting, which they hailed as a symbol of a community coming together in the wake of the flash flood that swept through the historic district, and outlined a timeline for recovery.

Planning for recovery could take up to a year, Kittleman said Friday afternoon.

The county expects to reopen Main Street to all pedestrian traffic by Sept. 20. For three days before opening day, business owners, residents, property owners and construction crews will be allowed to clean up and secure buildings between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Kittleman said it is unclear when the area will be open to vehicles because the area is still a construction zone. Crews have repaired sewers and sidewalks, added temporary curbs and gutters and expanded stormwater drains in the last several weeks, Kittleman said.

The county is hiring consultants to conduct multiple studies, including a study of stream channel conditions, interviews with impacted residents and owners and water flow patterns. These studies will guide the county's flood management strategy, Kittleman said.

"We want to avoid putting any more Band-Aids on this problem," Kittleman said.

The county will begin a four-month process to garner ideas about flood management soon in order to determine how to ensure Ellicott City is built to be "more resilient," Kittleman said.

For Cunningham, the painting is a picture of that resilience.

Her friends, Theo and Lisa Schlossnagle, purchased the painting for $5,000 and donated it back to the county.

When she heard they were donating the painting, Cunningham said everything came "full circle."

The Schlossnagles and Cunningham graduated from Atholton High School in the late 1990s. Lisa sang in the choir, Theo played the drums and Cunningham took to the bass.

The money for the painting went to the Ellicott City Historic Partnership, a nonprofit in the historic district that is distributing flood donations.

Cunningham grew up allured by an ethereal "magical" quality of the historic district, she said.

The county hopes to find a permanent location for the mural on Main Street.

For now, it will hang in the county's central government office just 1.2 miles away from Main Street.

Kittleman highlighted the following dates in the recovery process:

• On Sunday, Sept. 11 the county will host a meeting at the 50+ Center in Ellicott City to prepare residents as they return to the historic district.

• Two-way traffic on the bridge over the Patapsco River will open by 7 a.m. on Sept. 17. Traffic signals will work, but construction may limit traffic to one-way at times.

• The area will be open to credentialed business owners, property owners, residents and construction workers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Sept. 17 through Sept. 20.

• Lot D will be opened by Sept. 20 after it is repaved.

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