Climate Refugees In Artsy Suburbs
June 2, 2018 10:46 AM   Subscribe

“If I have any takeaway from nearly drowning in the flash flood that swept through Ellicott City, Maryland, last Sunday, it’s that reality feels like it’s falling apart around you. “ When the Water Came for Me, a first person account of the Ellicott City flood and how thousand year storms are happening every two years.
posted by The Whelk (20 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I got stuck in the 2nd floor of my friend's bar during the last one, and this time I was in my house farther down 144. People with no damn perspective are still telling me that a town I have lived in or near for the great majority of my life shouldn't exist now. Why did they build in the first place, the eminent grey red hatted heads of the internet tell me, it's doomed, things change.

I've watched the down street flooding get worse as the developments got larger. Someone got paid for all that coming soon. Someone was the transaction that made that externality. Someone got elected on all those "tax the rain" jokes.
posted by Typhoon Jim at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2018 [23 favorites]


As I understand it, before 2016 Elliott City flooded once every decade or two when the river rose. Now, with so much new construction around it and so much of the surrounding watershed paved over, there’s nowhere for runoff to go but down Main Street.

I’ve spent a lot of time wandering through the antique malls and vintage shops there. I’m heartbroken that this has happened again.
posted by nonasuch at 11:35 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who ran his 2015 campaign on repealing a stormwater management fee he dubbed a “rain tax,"

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck Larry Hogan forever.
posted by duffell at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2018 [31 favorites]


Hey guys I almost fucking died lol

One of the fascinating things I've noticed about millennials (speaking as one) is their ability to find grim, juvenile humor in the realities of a world that is slowly crumbling around them. It's a weird combination of nihilism and resilience. A survival mechanism for the 21st century.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:08 PM on June 2, 2018 [22 favorites]


This is everywhere: prepared for a past climate, built for profit, not sustainability, rejecting collective proactive measures because "taxes and government is bad"...


Any suffiecently advanced ideology is impervious to empirical evidence because it develops well-worn mechanisms for converting challenges to its workd view into confirmations of its world view. The human mind is capable of wonderful things, will humans overcome selfishness and prejudice to work together to survive, i hope so.

.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 1:09 PM on June 2, 2018 [4 favorites]


The need to regulate construction because of the effect on people downhill dates all the way back to Roman imperial law.

On the megathread, I pointed out the GOP is waging a war on electrical engineering.
Hogan (and others like him) are warring with civil engineers.
posted by ocschwar at 1:25 PM on June 2, 2018 [10 favorites]


I have a friend in Catonsville (near Ellicott City) who has lived there since 1979 and has never had her basement flood. Until now, when she had four feet of water. Her pictures of her backyard show an entire neighborhood scoured by a wash of water that had nowhere to go.
posted by acrasis at 1:30 PM on June 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


something similar has happened around crosstown parkway south of downtown kalamazoo - suddenly we're getting a lot of flooding in this area when we get a major rainstorm - i suspect that a lot of the new development around there has something to do with it - at least it's slow flooding

they say it would cost hundreds of millions to fix it so it didn't happen

it would cost a lot less just to buy up the land, i think - but everyone is wondering just how this became such a problem this year - and it makes me wonder how many other areas of other towns are having similar problems
posted by pyramid termite at 2:10 PM on June 2, 2018


> Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who ran his 2015 campaign on repealing a stormwater management fee he dubbed a “rain tax,"

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck Larry Hogan forever.


I wonder if perhaps an update of this PSA from just before the 2012 election would be in order? I suspect Mr. Robinson may be amenable to the use of his video for that particular purpose....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:17 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Impact fees for storm water runoff are becoming more popular for my company's client cities, because every big box store parking lot increases the burden on storm sewers. But non-engineers often have a hard time with the concept, because they have never considered the idea that dirt absorbs rain. And they resent the fees and raise hell.

Humans remain terrible at long-term planning
posted by emjaybee at 4:55 PM on June 2, 2018 [10 favorites]


I believe I am also even one of the people who has profited from the conditions that lead to this destruction. I am uphill from the Patapsco. I should be paying more for stormwater management. It is Ellicott City and the highways surrounding it that has given my house the value that it has.
posted by Typhoon Jim at 6:18 PM on June 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


I feel so much empathy for the people of Ellicott City. There’s a couple of places in Houston—Meyerland in particular—that have been hit hard by three devastating floods in three years, floods which were exacerbated by unchecked development transforming runoff-capable soils into unforgiving concrete.

We seem to have no procedures in place in the US to stop development that is meteorologically unsound. I wish to god we did. It seems we will keep learning this one the hard way, at the cost of lives and homes and memories.
posted by librarylis at 6:50 PM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


One of the fascinating things I've noticed about millennials (speaking as one) is their ability to find grim, juvenile humor in the realities of a world that is slowly crumbling around them. It's a weird combination of nihilism and resilience. A survival mechanism for the 21st century.


i don't know if it's just (also millenial) me, but DNC Zach yelling after the 2016 election "You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy" has been an image I've toted around in my head at least once a week since I read it.

Reading the predictions of climate change scientists from 1976 is really depressing. There's a lot of things that are erroneously blamed on older generations. But the Boomers deserve every ounce of blame for failing to stop this hellish march when they had the window to do so.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:01 PM on June 2, 2018 [9 favorites]


If I thought I was about to drown in a flash flood, I imagine I'd either be completely terrified, or detached, as a coping mechanism, with a feeling I've read about from people who almost died in accidents - surprise that this is how I go.
posted by thelonius at 12:10 AM on June 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I just keep burning with anger at all of my right-leaning friends were were all, "lol rain tax what else will the libtards hit us with?" who are upset about Ellicott City now. But of course their next reaction is to just be all, "who can predict the weather, there's nothing to do!" in feigned helplessness rather than ever consider "a: climate scientists; b: regulate development." AUGH.
posted by TwoStride at 8:32 AM on June 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


On the megathread, I pointed out the GOP is waging a war on electrical engineering.
Hogan (and others like him) are warring with civil engineers.


Two battles in their greater war on reality itself.

And while it's not a fight they can win (lol no, as a millennial might point out), they are doing their level best to take everybody else down when they go.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:49 PM on June 3, 2018


Similar story from NC: Developers got the state to stop mapping landslide prone areas because they were afraid it would hurt property values Now people are dead who would be alive if they had known the house they bought was in a landslide prone area.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:56 PM on June 3, 2018 [4 favorites]


Is there a word for "From the moment I started reading this article, I was waiting for these sentences to come up, and when they did, I didn't feel good about being right at all?"

So developers have gone around the town, peppering the surrounding hillsides with condominiums and apartment complexes. Forested land has been replaced with slick concrete and impervious surfaces that deflect runoff.

He's partially explaining (though of course not excusing) the presence of those developments by how most of Ellicott City proper is under historical preservation regulations, but I think that's a non-issue actually: Trending area, that kind of suburban-edge development was always going to happen.

I'm also a Marylander, and while I haven't been to Ellicott City for several years, I am still heartbroken. And enraged.
posted by seyirci at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Scaggsville, live in Laurel, and since 1970 have never lived further than vigorous bicycling distance from Ellicott City, which, for want of a more accurate term, has always been the Auntie Mame of a town to my little fading Mayberry. It is old, new, funky, fun, hippie, and historic (though I'd never use the dead-eyed-suburbanites air-pinchy term "artsy" to describe anything, let alone EC), and it's a place where I spend a fair amount of my time, with my gentleman caller living just up the hill in Catonsville and my scooter gang assembling for guitar-infested bonfires on a wooded hillside over the oldest train station in the country.

I puttered into town on my scooter for Springfest 2018 a month prior, bringing a replacement microphone clip to my gentleman caller for his show on the main stage, and smugly tucked my scootypuff into one of those spots where you can park a scooter when there's seriously no parking anywhere. In a break from a day of festing, I went to sit by the old courthouse, which was shaded and a nice place to just sit and bask in the aura of durable things while recharging my batteries from a daylong episode of too much human contact. It's nice, having places like that, where time is just paused while stones age at the rate stones age, and I just pressed a hand against the rock wall of the building as if to say I appreciate that you are here.

I was in the mountains with friends at a bluegrass festival over the weekend of the flood, many of whom lived right in the midst of the flood, and we all watched as our friends back home sent us photos and videos of the inevitable destruction live from the ground. Everyone had worked so hard to rebuild, and the water hadn't recede before know-it-alls around the country were trumpeting how of course they shouldn't rebuild, as if it were the fault of those who lived in the city and who built a little tight-knit community of art and music and collective action, many of whom own those places that they're not supposed to rebuild because...blah blah blah.

And I heard the sputtering "ho ho RAIN TAX" nonsense from the world when my state was trying to impose some sort of order on the paving of everything, and the "rain tax" got us a nitwit governor and the only-Columbia-and-horse-country-matters attitude of Howard County planners, who love love love growth because money money money sweet money—

So what if you've built a three-square-mile asphalt funnel aimed at the town?

Sigh.

The old courthouse is gone, of course. The Thomas Isaac cabin beside it survived, despite being perilously close to where everything fell into the roaring torrent, but those stones are scattered and buried and everyone's just hollowed out, wondering what to do next even as the elected officials have paraded through, made big, blowsy statements full of thoughts and prayers and other versions of motherfucking nothing, and headed out again, and the storms are gathering.

The rain outside picked up and I wondered when the next wave was coming.
posted by sonascope at 2:15 PM on June 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


We seem to have no procedures in place in the US to stop development that is meteorologically unsound.
California has had a regulatory regime in place for years that requires retention and treatment of water from a 100 year event for all projects. It was designed as a drought protection and clean water initiative but it definitely lessens flooding impact as well. Developers love to complain about space lost to retention and remediation but honestly by now we are all used to the idea that if water falls on your property you are responsible for it.
posted by q*ben at 8:06 PM on June 20, 2018


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