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Flooded Residents In Maryland Wonder About Rebuilding

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — After yet another devastating flash flood ripped apart their historic Maryland mill town, hundreds of residents and business owners are again asking themselves: Should I stay or should I go?

Some people in picturesque Ellicott City — established in 1772 as a Patapsco River mill town surrounded by hills — say they're determined to rebuild after Sunday's devastation. Their hope: to pull together as a community again after the second terrible flood deluged their downtown in less than two years.

RELATED: Residents, Business Owners Allowed Temporary Access To Ellicott City

Simon Cortes, owner of La Palapa Grill & Cantina, said Monday it's "a horrible time," and his business took on about a foot of water. But he says the 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 is right by the spot where a 39-year-old man was swept away by Sunday's raging floodwaters.

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 about 13 miles west of Baltimore.

Ellicott City awash in flood waters as heavy rain drenches Baltimore region
Rescue personnel walk along Ellicott City's Main Street on Sunday, May 27, 2018 in Maryland. (Libby Solomon/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Ellicott City faces another Flash Flood Emergency after drenching rain for several hours
ELLICOTT CITY, MD - MAY 27: A van was swept up in the flood waters that ripped down Main Street May 27, 2018 in Ellicott City, MD. This comes two years after another flash flood devastated the historic downtown. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Another Flash Flood devastates downtown Ellicott City
ELLICOTT CITY, MD - MAY 28: Lots of cars sustained major damage as well as flooding after torrential rain fell in the area the night before May 28, 2018 in Ellicott City, MD. This comes two years after another flash flood killed two people and devastated the historic downtown . (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Another Flash Flood devastates downtown Ellicott City
ELLICOTT CITY, MD - MAY 28: Jean-Luc Durantaye, 26, begins to clean out his basement bedroom that flooded during the flash flooding that occurred the night before May 28, 2018 in Ellicott City, MD. The place next door completely lost it's basement to flooding. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Now the locals face yet another massive cleanup, serious economic losses and a daunting comeback.

Sunday's torrential rains came just as the town seemed to come back stronger than ever from a dreadful 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 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. We'll just have to assess it," 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.

Still, people are heartbroken that 39-year-old Eddison Hermond of Severn, Maryland remains missing. He was last seen trying to help a woman rescue her cat behind a restaurant while seething brown waters surged through the downtown.

MORERescuers Searching For Missing National Guardsman In Ellicott City

Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner said the National Guard member and U.S. Air Force veteran had been with a group at the La Palapa Grill & Cantina when a woman approached, desperately trying to rescue her pet just outside.

"He, along with some other folks, went back to assist her and unfortunately during that effort they saw him go under water," Gardner told reporters.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said his immediate priorities are finding Hermond and assessing the condition of damaged buildings that housed shops, restaurants and families.

"If you look at the devastation and the damage, I would certainly say it's worse than 2016," Kittleman said. "We've had areas that were not even damaged at all two years ago terribly damaged this time."

RELATED: 'It's Devastating For All Of Us': Cleanup Underway In Ellicott City

Ellicott City certainly got the worst of it. But torrential rains led to such bad flooding in Baltimore County, Baltimore City and the capital of Annapolis that Gov. Larry Hogan declared a statewide emergency to better coordinate support and assistance.

Mike Muccilli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it was too early to make comparisons between the two devastating floods.

In the July 2016 storm, Ellicott City received 6.6 inches (17 centimeters) of rain over a two- to three-hour period. On Sunday, the community received some 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) of rain over a six-hour period, most of it in an intense, three-hour period, Muccilli said.

"In a normal heavy rain ... you wouldn't see this amount of flooding, where you see cars floating down the road," the meteorologist said. "This was a true flash flood."

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(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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