ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) – Searchers on Tuesday scouring a river alongside an historic Maryland town ripped apart by flash flooding found the body of a man last seen being swept away by the raging waters as it gutted shops and pushed parked cars into swollen tributaries.
Volunteers and crews with trained dogs had been methodically hunting for 39-year-old Eddison Hermond. He disappeared late Sunday afternoon, following torrential rains that prompted destructive flash flooding in historic Ellicott City.
It was the second time Ellicott City’s downtown district was hit by deadly floodwaters in less than two years.
On Tuesday afternoon, Hermond’s body was located in the Patapsco River. He was the only person reported missing in Ellicott City — established in 1772 as a mill town — where many now can’t get the roar of rushing waters out of their heads.
“To have died helping somebody else is incredible. And I can’t even imagine the loss his family is suffering,” said Nicholas Johnson, owner of a store near the spot where Hermond vanished. He disappeared while trying to help a woman who was escaping the flooded zone with her cat.
Hermond, of Severn, Maryland, was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard. He was described by those who knew him as an affable, generous man.
With waters receded, residents of the flood-prone town are facing another daunting comeback since the last terrible flood deluged their beloved downtown, smashing inventory and ripping up floors and pavement.
Some people in Ellicott City’s historic downtown say they are determined to rebuild. Their hope: to pull together as a community once again and live up to the nickname “Ellicott City Strong,” which many locals are now repeating as a sort of mantra.
Simon Cortes, owner of La Palapa Grill & Cantina, said it’s “a horrible time,” and his business took on about a foot (30 centimeters) of water. But he notes the quaint old town has been through it all before, and he’ll do his part to spur another revival.
“I feel like it’s our duty to make sure that we rebuild and open back up,” said Cortes, whose restaurant Hermond was visiting before he was seen going under the waters and not resurfacing.
Others are stretched to the breaking point by the floods, which tore up streets and swept away dozens of cars in the quaint downtown of historic 18th and 19th century buildings, which sit in a ravine some 13 miles (20 kilometers) west of Baltimore.
Another massive cleanup, serious economic losses and a daunting comeback couldn’t come at a worse time. Sunday’s torrential rains came just as the commercial district seemed to have come back stronger than ever from the July 2016 flash flood that killed two people.
Getting flood insurance around old Ellicott City was a pricy proposition before. Now, people don’t even want to think about how much it might cost, on top of the debts they’re still paying from the last time their homes and businesses were destroyed.
Nathan Sowers, owner of the River House Pizza Co., an outdoor eatery in the old mill town’s business district, said that after all the hard work of rebuilding from the 2016 flood, he’s feeling a bit overwhelmed at attempting yet another comeback.
“We’ll see. It takes a lot of money and a lot of time, a lot of energy,” he said, speaking near a bridge where several crushed cars were swept into a muddy tributary’s banks.
But Sowers said he saw other hard-hit locals laughing and joking about their troubles first thing Monday morning — a good sign the Maryland town will launch yet another rebirth.
But the bad news just kept coming: On Tuesday morning, county authorities issued what they called a “precautionary health alert” after a sewage main broke about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Ellicott City’s historic main street.
The sewage overflow, first noticed early Monday, has been stopped. But as much as 500,000 gallons of sewage had already spilled and residents were being told to stay away from the affected area.
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has told reporters his immediate priorities were finding Hermond and assessing the condition of damaged buildings, shops and restaurants. That assessment work continued Tuesday.
“If you look at the devastation and the damage, I would certainly say it’s worse than 2016,” Kittleman said.