Push It Real Good
Late Summer Wrap-Up of Nothing in Particular

The Flood

We were out having dinner when the warnings started: Flash floods in Ellicott City.

The warnings, however, weren't coming through on our phones via weather service alerts, but directly from our waiter, who was running from table to table making sure everyone knew: don't drive through downtown Ellicott City. I don't know how he found out, but we thanked him for the heads up and assured him we'd take an alternate route home. 

We were in downtown Catonsville, which is a little over three miles away from downtown Ellicott City. We'd driven right through it an hour or so earlier. Despite the not-great weather, the sidewalks and bars and shops all seemed typically packed with tourists and locals. In my head I imagined some rising river water clogging up one of the main intersections and causing a traffic snarl, which we avoided by taking the long way home. We only live a mile away from the historic district, but we're both farther away from the river and higher in elevation (not to mention our neighborhood has significantly more modern sewers and drainage compared to an area first built in 1772), so our house and street were predictably Just Fine when we arrived home. 

Jason and I got into a stupid fight about politics (or more accurately, about my current inability to stop obsessing and worrying about politics, to the point that I've worked myself into full-on General Election Anxiety Disorder) and went to bed without thinking much more about it. 

Sunday morning, though, I awoke to a string of worried texts from friends and family. Our little sleepy town was all over the news. Were we okay?

Yes. Just Fine. But it would be quite a few more hours before it fully sunk in just how NOT FINE the downtown was. 

These photos. I just. I burst into tears. That's the street we fell in love with late last June, where we took the kids for pizza and ice cream and poking around vintage toy and comic book shops. The street they STILL consider to be made of magic, their favorite place on earth, and the words "let's go to downtown Ellicott" STILL elicit a round of cheers because no matter what, going to downtown Ellicott means fun and adventure.

This video. The man at the front of the human chain is the owner of All Time Toys, our kids' favorite store. They save up their allowances and James always knows to go right over and open the Bionicle display when they walk in. The store is completely destroyed (here's a GoFundMe to help) (there are actually quite a few), but that woman is alive, and he's now officially a goddamn superhero. 

(If there was any sliver of a smile yesterday, I admit it came from the woman screaming "PUT YOUR SHIT DOWN AND GET OUT OF THE FUCKING CAR!!" That's my town, right goddamn there.)

I don't know either of the two people who died. I can't even imagine. We were warned by a waiter a few miles away; obviously the people on the sidewalks and in their cars had no warning, no time. A summertime visit to a quaint scenic area suddenly went upside down and under water. 

Before we saw the photos (and thus understood just How Fucking Bad Shit Is Downtown), Jason made an attempt to drive down, hoping to take the kids to an ice cream shop on the upper edge, thinking it escaped the floodwaters and could probably use some patronage. Not a chance. All roads in are still blocked off, and the side streets are packed with parked cars of volunteers trudging in for the clean-up effort. Which is going to take awhile. 

We're fine. Our house, our cars, our livelihoods are here and fine and completely unaffected by what happened a mile away. 

But I still can help feeling like we lost something important. Something we truly love and care about. I hope we can get it back. 




We had a thousand-year flood here in Columbia SC last year, and like you, we were spared (though the night of driving rain was as scary as I remember Hurricane Hugo being) but there was major damage, including collapsed roads, within a mile of us. It's so surreal. Glad you got out safely and hope downtown recovers quickly!


I'm glad you and yours are fine, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by the flood.

Kristin C

You expressed how we felt after Sandy. We live inland now, but my husband grew up in Point Pleasant Beach, one of the hard-hit shore towns. People were driving all the way out to us (45-60 mins) for gas, the entire boardwalk was destroyed. It all came back. People help each other--and your magic street will be there once again with help from people like you.

Of note, for anyone in the area - don't forget first responders. We took snacks and treats to the local firestation a few days after the storm and those tired, amazing people were so happy for the small gesture we made. It was all I could think to do as they spent countless hours digging the town out from underneath sand and boards that littered the streets.

(ok now I'm rambling so I'll leave it at this) I'm glad you all are safe.


Woke up to this terrible news yesterday, so glad you are ok! It reminded of Katrina, when we evacuated thinking we would be back the next day, everything would be fine, and then woke up to the news that our beloved city had flooded. We didn't return for five months! Hopefully EC will have a speedy recovery.

Sue W

So sad. I had just watched the video of the guys saving the woman on Facebook. Thoughts and prayers to your fair city and it's residents.


So glad you are OK. Manitou Springs, CO is a little tourist town at the base of Pikes Peak with an amazing downtown, and they were hit with terrible flooding a couple of summers ago (following forest fires). So much was destroyed, but those amazing people rebuilt and it's back. I know your town will make it.

Ann Coleman

My aunt and uncle moved to a house right by the intersection of Oella Ave and Frederick Rd circa 1988 (still there!!). Whenever we visited we would stay there and go to old Ellicott City, and yes it was magic whether you were a child, high school teen, or adult. So many wonderful little cave-like stores with treasures in them! And walking up that hill- so much fun there in the antiques and dress shops and jewelry stores and restaurants. And that restaurant just across the railroad tracks, always great coffee and pastries in that morning before shopping. I have a friend who is a law clerk at an office in the northern end, here's hoping she still has a job? So many jobs that must be lost. It's so sad. Thanks for sharing Ellicott City with the world when it needs it most.


I heard about Ellicott City on NPR this morning and my first thought was, isn't that where Amalah and her family live? How absolutely terrifying for everyone involved. I hope the town is able to rebuild. So glad you're okay.


Thought about you as soon as I saw this on the news over the weekend (I'm in Lancaster County so it was on our local news). Scary and sad but so glad Yellow House and it's occupants are okay! Water is something to be respected. My house is on high ground and far away from the nearest waterway. During Tropical Storm Lee we had four feet of water in our basement, our neighbor's basement wall collapsed and nobody could drive to us because the road was VERY flooded all ways in. I never in a million years would have thought that possible. Now I have anxiety every time we are supposed to get more than an inch. Ellicott City will be back, it will probably just take awhile.


"Put your shit down and get out of the fucking car" is so quintessential Baltimore, it warms my cold dead heart. The move from metro DC to the Baltimore subs doesn't seem that far, but it truly is a world apart. HEC will be rebuilt, although I fear a large portion will be different when it is all said and done. I'm glad to hear the yellow house remains unscathed and you guys make it through the worst of it ok.


So glad you are okay! I trust your town will be too, soon. (On the off topic of the election, my husband and I were getting so upset that we've called a news freeze. We don't watch, listen, or read for now. And we don't stress nearly so much! Hope you can get over it too)


I am so relieved to hear you and your family are safe! When I heard the news, you were the first thought in my head.

Sending so much love to your city as y'all begin to clean up and rebuild. <3


Thank God you are all okay! The second we saw the first reports on the nation news I thought of you and have worried about you and your boys and your Yellow House ever since. I even messaged you via FaceBook to try to make sure you were all okay. What an experience for your children and you and Jason to go through. At least the boys are old enough to process this natural disaster and how it affects real people and places they love.


That's so sad. I didn't hear about this, but I lived in Baltimore for six years when I was growing up and went to Ellicott City a few times and found it absolutely magical. A similar thing happened to an almost equally lovely little town in NJ.


I spent countless weekend nights in high school wandering Main Street Ellicott City, going to Riverside Cafe(since gone), wandering through the Forget Me Not Factory. Unbelievable. Glad you are ok and avoided the scene.


Yeah, I don't go to EC that often (we live over in AA Co), but just often enough that looking through pictures and seeing the sidewalk we usually take from the parking area to the chocolate shop being replaced by a giant void and an tilted car.... yeah. Scarily real. Glad that there weren't more injuries or deaths, and hoping the city makes it out ok.


Donated, thanks for sharing. I've been consumed by politics too- feels good to spread a little light for a change.


The man that died was the best friend of a friend. I didn't know him, but she's beyond devastated. Apparently, he was a wonderful, big-hearted guy, and a very devoted father. So ridiculously sad.

Leigh Ann

Oh, that's so terrible. I'm glad you guys are okay, but how devastating for the rest of the town.


I live in NoVa and evry time I see a news report about it I tear up. Holy hell the video footage I've seen is scary. And, yes your toy store man is a super hero. I chuckled at that woman's comment. I had to re watch to make sure I heard it right. Probably would have yelled then same thing. I can not imagine the sadness for all those business owners.


When we lived in Olney my in-laws lived in Ellicott City. I love that area, and knew it well. I was heartbroken to see the pictures of that beautiful historic area. Glad to hear that you and your family are safe!

Amy Fitzpatrick

We had similar flash flooding in Duluth, MN in 2012. The city is on a big hill overlooking Lake Superior. We thought we could never flood being on a huge hill but all the water charging down the hill tore up streets, created sinkholes, destroyed houses, and forever changed many city parks and green spaces. Our house, at the bottom of the hill, was luckily spared. I remember thinking there was NO way we could ever clean it all up, no way it would ever be the same...but we did. Time and amazing help from the community healed it all. So sad...but I bet those special businesses will see the love of the people who appreciated them. I'm sorry this happened to your town..but know that it will all be ok! p.s. That video of the car rescue was TERRIFYING.


So glad you're all ok. So sorry for all that loss. I watched two wonderful downtowns (Los Gatos and Santa Cruz) take a massive hit during the '89 earthquake here in California, and they've both recovered. Takes some time, but we get there. And that was before GoFundMe, too - it's nice that folks can help so easily now.


Thinking of your town.

Bozoette Mary

I'm so glad you're all fine! EC is/was one of our favorite places ever - Ellicott Mills Brewing was our fave restaurant and we had our regular shop stops. I'm so sad for the town, the shopkeepers, and everyone else. Love from Philly.


I'm so glad you guys are ok.

Largely thanks to your recommendation, my husband and I spent a wonderful date day in Ellicot City back in May. To say we were charmed is an understatement--what history, what character, what lovely local businesses and nice people. I'm wearing a ring from a jewelry shop on Main Street right now. My geeky husband loved the shop with all the vintage toys and legos.

We were both horrified to see the news this weekend. My husband's hometown has flooded before--he's been in the midst of clean up, pumping out people's basements, seeing his grandparents' first floor full of water...he can picture the devastation.

We're so so sorry this happened to this lovely town.


First time commenting but in the hopes you haven't seen this yet and I can bring you a little smile/laugh in light of political cluster fuckery.

ccr in MA

How scary! I'm glad that you guys are all right.


I'm right there with you.

We were at Portalli's the week before for brunch. We went into that toy store. We went into the chocolate store. We went into what we call the Fairy store and Zeebo's. (Ziboe's? I'm not sure.)

The human chain where they rescued the woman from the car? My husband's co-worker lives in the apartment above that shop. He and his new wife (they got married Saturday) were out. They cannot get back into their apartment now because the bottom floor is destroyed. Their place is fine, but they can't get into it.

It's horrific. It's horrific to know that it's "our place," and it's not there anymore. It's terrible seeing the flooding and destruction on the news when it's some place else, but when it suddenly is your place is destroyed, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Ellicott City will rebuilt. They're strong. They will prevail. But in the mean time.... It sucks.

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