Flash flood warnings were issued for Howard County and Baltimore City on Tuesday, with storms dropping a quick few inches of rain. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)
Shantay Allen was going home after visiting a friend in East Baltimore when she drove through an underpass that was filling with water. The car in front of her stalled, then water began seeping into Allen's car.
Allen said she had to think quickly to get out of the car, climb on top and begin livestreaming on Facebook as her car became submerged in a mix of water and raw sewage. She was later rescued by a Baltimore Fire Department dive team.
The incident happened as quick downpours caused flash floods across the Baltimore region Tuesday afternoon. Downpours dumped between 1 and 3 inches of rain on parts of the Baltimore region, including Ellicott City, on Tuesday, prompting the National Weather Service to issue flash flood warnings.
They urged drivers to avoid flooded roads. Most flooding deaths occur when people become trapped in vehicles.
Allen, 27, said she later heard the underpass, on Erdman Avenue near North Point Road, is prone to flooding. But the Park Heights resident wasn't familiar with the area.
When water began entering her car, she said, it caused the car's electrical system to fail, leaving her unable to open her power windows. Allen had heard that drivers caught in floods should use their headrests to break the windows, but she wasn't able to do that in her Infiniti G35.
Finally, she escaped through the sunroof. She said she tried to call 911 but got a busy signal. Her phone dying, Allen said she went on Facebook Live to notify many people at once that she needed them to call 911. She said she also wanted to record for insurance purposes.
"You could tell it was sewage," she said. "That was the entire reason why I didn't jump in that water and try to walk out."
After she was rescued, Allen said, she went to the hospital to get medication to prevent bacterial infections from any contact she may have had with the sewage. And Allen said she did not have comprehensive insurance on her car to cover the cost of replacing it.
"The pain comes from the loss that I took today," she said, referring to her car and its belongings. "I wasn't prepared for that."
Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Skinner said the incident happened around 1:48 p.m. and nearly 5 feet of water filled the underpass. Two other cars also stalled on West Patapsco Avenue and Potee Street, Skinner said.
The weather service reported high water flooding roads around the region: Near the 3200 block of Edmondson Avenue in Oella in western Baltimore County; in Baltimore City and eastern Baltimore County along the North Point Boulevard corridor; and around Harford County, in the Bel Air, Bynum and Hickory areas.
National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Hofmann said up to three inches of rain fell on parts of Harford County amid the torrent of rain Tuesday afternoon. He said the rain toppled some trees and lightning strikes sparked a few fires in Harford.
The heavy rain comes after a wet past month for the region, meaning the ground is saturated. More than 2.5 inches of rain has fallen at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport so far this month, and nearly 4 inches fell in late July.
The rainfall has tested the recovery in Ellicott City, where two people died in flash flooding just over a year ago, but for the most part recent downpours have avoided that area.