Catonsville, Oella suffer worst of storm damage in Baltimore County

Baltimore County officials toured Catonsville and Oella on Monday to survey the damage from Sunday’s floods.

Don Mohler, who has been appointed the next county executive, said the county suffered isolated damage and flooding, primarily in Catonsville and Oella near Ellicott City.

Raging waters chewed up pavement, toppled trees and flooded homes.

Dundalk, on the southeastern side of the county, also suffered heavy rains. Mohler said there were “pockets of damage” throughout the county.

“You see it on TV but until you come up and walk it, there are no words,” Mohler said.

Mohler said he was inspired by people acting as good neighbors and helping one another.

“Every situation, every crisis like this, you end up really being inspired. It’s just inspiration,” Mohler said. “You realize people are good.”

Mohler said he’d been in touch with Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman to offer resources to help with the catastrophic damage in Old Ellicott City, just across the Patapsco River from Oella. Baltimore County sent its Fire Department’s advanced tactical team to Howard County to help with search and rescue, and offered help from police and public works crews.

“This will be a cooperative effort,” Mohler said. “We will do everything we can to get Ellicott City up and back on its feet.”

Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, said the damage was “clearly a knockout punch.” He clarified that the area will have to address some fundamental challenges, but he believes it will be able to come back.

Felicia Salazar and her husband, Gabe Zaldivar, have been working to open a cafe on Frederick Road near the Patapsco River in Oella this summer. On Monday, they set up tables of food and coffee for residents, business owners and first-responders, and allowed people to rest and use their bathrooms.

The couple, who live in Ellicott City, said they watched the rising waters nervously Sunday night.

“I just feel so lucky,” Salazar said. “It’s hard to not do more.”

Baltimore County emergency officials were conductring windshield assessments — driving throughout the county to evaluate damage. They said no one in the county had been reported missing and no serious injuries were reported.

At the height of the storm and flooding Sunday, emergency crews performed a dozen water rescues.

One man was rescued in the Seven Courts area of Perry Hall, authorities said. He had gone into a stream to rescue children who had been playing.

“He truly saved their lives,” county fire Chief Kyrle Preis said. “He ran into some difficulty and we were able to extract him.”

In another incident Sunday, crews rescued three people who were trapped on rocks in the Gunpowder River. Preis said he was alarmed that two kayakers paddled by as the rescue was in progress. He urged people to stay away from streams and rivers during storms and flooding events.

“All they’re doing is going to hamper our rescue efforts and potentially put our rescuers at risk,” Preis said. “They’re putting themselves at risk.”

Five sewage pumping stations in the county overflowed during the storms. All were functioning by Monday. County officials said they could not say how much sewage overflowed.

Hundreds of residents called for help pumping water out of their basements.

Mohler urged homeowners with damage to their properties to call their insurance companies immediately to start the claims process.

County officials are working on ways to help residents dispose of trash and items damaged by the storms.

County residents can call 410-887-5210 to report damaged roads, fallen trees or “severely flooded basements,” Mohler said.

Several roads in the Catonsville and Oella areas remained closed Monday night due to flood damage and fallen trees. They included River Road at South Hilltop Road; Westchester Avenue at Oella Avenue; Old Frederick Road at Bryans Mill Way; and Thistle Road at River Road.

Nearby but across the city line, Frederick Avenue was closed to traffic in both directions between Beechfield Avenue and Northbend Road, the Baltimore Department of Transportation tweeted Monday afternoon. Repair work could take “several weeks or longer,” the department said.

The Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park was also closed. Park officials asked patrons to stay away from the area so they could focus on repairs.

pwood@baltsun.com

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