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Perspective

When the Water Came for Me

In just a few hours on Sunday afternoon, the residents of Ellicott City, Maryland, became climate refugees. Here’s what that feels like.
Debris left behind in Ellicott City, Maryland, after catastrophic flooding on Sunday.
Debris left behind in Ellicott City, Maryland, after catastrophic flooding on Sunday. David McFadden/AP

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. Standing five doors down from the apartment I rent above my mother and sister’s kitchen goods store, I watched parked cars weightlessly slide down the street. Water that had been ankle high when I’d gone out to move my car up the street quickly rose to my thighs and, eventually, my waist. A police officer who had been blocking off traffic was standing next to me one second, yards away booking it up the street the next. I ran and banged on doors until I found an unlocked apartment building entrance, next to a cute shop that sells bathbombs and scented soaps. I slammed the door shut and watched transfixed as a wall of water bore down on the other side of two inches of wood and glass.