Tuesday, July 11, 2023

What Do I Know? Ellicott City and the Near Miss


<Que sais-je?> means “What do I know?” in French. This is the phrase one asks oneself when one wonders if one does not have sufficient knowledge about something. The phrase became well known as Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne's personal motto and means for gaining knowledge.*

Que sais-je?

As high school seniors we delighted in a philosopher who seemed to be admitting how much he didn’t know. Too much of school was memorizing: readings, lectures, or notes. Michel de Montaigne was a man after my own heart: what do I know? Perhaps our interpretation leaned a little to heavily on a subtext of “Don’t ask me!” Montaigne’s inquiry may have rested in the what, not the who.

I feel motivated to write about Old Ellicott City’s near miss on Sunday. The heavy rains predicted could very well have produced conditions similar to earlier floods. This time, thank heavens, Main Street was spared. Other locations in the Northeast were not. Film footage from New York State was an eerie reminder.

What can I tell you that you don’t know already? If you were on social media you saw posts from County Government, the County Executive, Council member Liz Walsh, State Representative Courtney Watson, and individual businesses on Main Street. It was clear that everyone was on high alert and that preparations were being made. There was a plan, a process - - clearly and consistently communicated to the public. The County Emergency Operations Center was up and running. 

It’s also true that not all of the plans for flood mitigation which are a part of the county’s Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan have been completed. No one wanted to see what a test of partial mitigation looked like. But we don’t get to say to the increasingly-chaotic summer storms, “Hey! Wait up until we’re done here.” 

That’s what I know. 

But it is absolutely nothing compared to people who live on or close to Main Street or have businesses there. In our community are people who experienced catastrophic flooding first hand, who lost their livelihoods or lost people they knew and loved to violent rushing waters. Nor can I channel the thoughts of county professionals who have been working on long-term flood mitigation. 

I’m sitting over here in Columbia watching the sky and reading social media. 

Que sais-je?

I know a deep sense of relief that the flooding passed them by. I feel a continued sense of urgency that all of the EC Safe and Sound plan must be completed. And monitored. And improved over time, if need be. Our weather is changing. Our vigilance to storms like this mustn’t waver. I write about this not because I am an expert, but because I care.

Are you in Ellicott City? Do you have experiences from this past weekend that you think the larger community should be aware of? What should we know? 

Village Green/Town² Comments

*from a description by Hakusuisha, Ltd.

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