Two buildings full of businesses and homes will need to be demolished in Ellicott City, Maryland, after they were severely damaged by raging floodwaters this weekend, officials said Wednesday.
A two-story building and a three-story building on Main Street will be demolished, town officials said at a news conference. The homes and businesses have the addresses 8101, 8103, 8107 and 8019.
Residents and business owners are not being allowed into the area because the buildings are in danger of collapsing, Howard County Fire Chief John Butler said.
“There’s no way I’m going to put the community in danger, and certainly not the responders on Main Street,” he said. “If it means that we take a little longer to get it done, we’ll do it.”
Officials were getting ready to let residents and business owners into the buildings for about 10 minutes on Wednesday to collect essential items when officials learned of the “potential impending collapse” of the two buildings, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said.
Only one group of people was allowed inside, briefly. Most people were not allowed to enter at all.
Fortunately, the buildings will not damage nearby structures when they are demolished, county head of building inspections Bob Frances said. However, he said it is possible other buildings in the area could be damaged.
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The county could have added supports to the building to prevent its collapse, Kittleman said. But the process may fail because the two buildings extend onto the Tiber River, he said.
Kittleman said shoring up the buildings would put workers’ lives in danger, so the county chose to demolish the buildings instead.
If the buildings did collapse, the wreckage could form a dam in the Tiber River and flood Ellicott City again, the fire chief said. Butler said he was also concerned about environmental damage, dust and falling debris from the building.
Most of the people who went to their homes and businesses on Wednesday had not been back since floodwaters rushed through the area, NBC4’s Chris Gordon said in a Facebook Live video. They were eager to see the damage and salvage some of their belongings.
Resident Sydney Kirchhoff and her husband were on their honeymoon when the flood hit.
“My mom had actually dropped off a lot of stuff from our wedding,” she said. “So, we really have no idea what to expect at all. I’m sure the place is trashed, regardless.”
Jason Crebs just wanted to pick up some clothing.
“I only have two shirts right now that I'm just alternating between," he said.
Kittleman said he and other officials were working hard to open the area as soon as possible, but he said he will not take any risks.
“There’s just no way we want to risk anybody’s life just so someone can get into a business another day earlier, two days earlier,” Kittleman said.