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'Are We Gonna Die, Ma'am?' 911 Calls During Flood Released

Residents, business owners in Maryland's Ellicott City wonder if they can rebuild
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2018 10:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – "It looks like a Stephen King movie." That was one Ellicott City local's take Tuesday after a "once in 1,000 years" flash flood devastated the Maryland city again Sunday. The Baltimore Sun reports residents, business owners, and officials have started assessing the wreckage as utility workers try to restore power and fix broken water and sewer lines, and at the top of everyone's minds is one question, per USA Today: "Do you rebuild once more?" Ellicott City suffered what the paper calls an "eerily similar flood" in 2016, with significant damage said to cost about $22 million and dozens of businesses impacted. "I honestly don't know if we're going to reopen," the owner of a local toy store says. "This is going to be a tough uphill battle, not just for me but for everyone because there are no more reserves, no more backup or savings. Next year, this might be a ghost town." More on the plight of Ellicott City:

  • "Are we gonna die, ma'am?" That's just one of the terrified voices heard talking to a dispatcher in a set of 911 calls released Tuesday by the Howard County Police, per CNN. Another caller described a horrifying scene across the street, per WTOP: "She's right now standing on top of her counter screaming … she's screaming at the top of her lungs … the water is getting higher and higher … God, this is worse than the last one."

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  • A one-minute clip of drone footage via the Guardian shows the extent of the damage in the flood-ravaged city.
  • Cops tell the Sun that the body of a missing National Guardsman who was swept away by the rushing waters was found Tuesday, and the Washington Post has more on hero Eddison "Eddie" Hermond. A local woman tearfully explains how Hermond was trying to help her and her cat when he got caught in the floodwaters. "He just stepped over the ledge, and he was immediately washed away," she says. Among Hermond's last messages on Facebook: a wish for a peaceful Memorial Day weekend. "Let's get the hate out of our hearts," he wrote Friday. "Focus on the positives and let's all, for once, enjoy life as it's meant to be enjoyed."
  • The Washington Post lays out how such flooding could've decimated Ellicott City twice in two years. Among the factors: the city's geography and an "atmospheric conspiracy." Forbes contributor Marshall Shepherd breaks it down further, putting the flood in the context of a fourth-grade water cycle lesson.

  • Could climate change have anything to do with cataclysmic events like this? Writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Will Bunch acknowledges it's hard to definitively prove that's the case—but he thinks it's worth a closer look. Henry Grabar at Slate agrees, noting that what happened in Ellicott City is a "reminder that heavy rain, rather than rising seas, may be the earliest severe consequence of climate change. We've prepared for it in the worst way possible."
  • The Washington Post calls the concept of a 1,000-year rainstorm "legitimate but limited," explaining that events like this can actually happen much more frequently, based on the numbers.
  • A University of Maryland-Baltimore County meteorologist tells WTOP he has a recommendation for the flood-prone Ellicott City: putting a rapid-flood warning system in place. "More rain gauges, more stream gauges, a smart prediction system that can give a warning based on minutes, with some type of lead time, at least to get people and cars off the street," he says.
(Read more Maryland stories.)

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