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Presbytery of Baltimore deals with flash flooding problems from weekend of heavy rain


Historic community bears brunt of flooding

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Memorial Day weekend turned into a memorable time for residents around Baltimore, but not in a good way. The region has been pounded with rain followed by flash flooding, leaving hundreds with water damage and one Army National Guard rescuer missing.

“Howard County, Maryland, where I live, had a number of flooding problems. Historic Ellicott City, Maryland, which is in a beautiful valley, flooded for the second time,” said Jackie Taylor, executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Baltimore. “They had a devastating flood two years ago and three people died. It’s just awful.” 

Video from the peak of the flooding showed swift moving water and extensive damage in Ellicott City. Buildings were heavily damaged and cars were overturned and leaning against utility poles. The governor has declared a state of emergency. While the damage from the 2016 storm cost the mill town tens of millions of dollars, federal authorities say it is too early to say how much this latest round of flooding will cost the community.

Taylor, whose office is just a few miles away, says presbytery staff has been impacted by the latest round of flooding.

“One of our staff members had flooding in her basement in Baltimore City and her son’s school opened two hours late because of flooding,” she said. “I had a lightning strike in front of my house. Severe lightning and flooding are what we are hearing. But churches are still checking in.”

Catonsville saw approximately 10 inches of rain in two to three hours, according to the Rev. Kenneth Kovacs, pastor of Catonsville Presbyterian Church.

“Parts of the community had flooding in areas that are not usually prone to flooding,” said Kovacs. “We’ve had so much rain the past two weeks anyway; the ground is so saturated. I’m hearing from many folks in the area who say the water was seeping through the floor in their basements.”

While the sanctuary and fellowship hall escaped damage, the church did see water.

“We had flooding in the church house where our administrative offices are located and, more extensively, we had water in our education wing and under our sanctuary. That’s where all our Sunday school classrooms are and our child-care center is located,” he said. “It is one of the largest child-care centers in the area.  We just put in a new hardwood floor in our gym back in January and it was damaged as well.”

Kovacs says many church members are dealing with water damage today.

“The president of our board of trustees would have been at the church right away but he was dealing with water on Sunday night. A lot of church members within a half mile of the church are all dealing with water in their basements,” said Kovacs. “If you drive in the neighborhood you’ll see garbage and debris out on the curb already.”

Both Kovacs and Taylor say the area had been hit with rain off and on for nearly two weeks, but they still were caught off guard by the flash flooding.

“When this storm came across, the weather service was putting out flash flooding notices as early as Friday night, letting folks know this was coming,” said Taylor. “I received flash flood notices all day Saturday, but Sunday is when it really hit with several inches an hour. We saw hail, storms, lightning and a lot of water. Within about four hours on Sunday, it was a deluge of water.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance continues to monitor the situation.

“I, like so many people, watched the video of the flooding in Ellicott City. It is hard to comprehend the immense damage that happened in a short time. PDA has reached out to the Presbytery of Baltimore leadership to offer support,” said the Rev. Jim Kirk, PDA’s associate for national disaster response. “Once the presbytery has completed its assessment and the full extent of damage, PDA will respond accordingly.”

While it is still early in the recovery process, Taylor believes prayer can go a long way toward recovery.

“I think the offering of ‘thoughts and prayers’ has been given a bad rap. We need to take that back because thoughts and prayers can very easily translate into actions and support,” said Taylor. “So, thoughts and prayers are welcome, especially for Ellicott City.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is able to respond quickly to emergencies because of gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing and designated giving. To support PDA’s response to flooding in the U.S., designate gifts to DR000191.

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