Flooded Annapolis Businesses Frustrated With 'Threatening' Closure Signs
ANNAPOLIS, MD - Seventeen flooded businesses in Annapolis were declared "unfit for human habitation" last week.
Those establishments were temporarily shut down until cleared by inspectors. Nine flooded businesses still had closure orders a week after the flood.
Inspectors must ensure each business is disinfected properly before reopening. Officials think the floodwater may have mixed with sewage, making the buildings unsafe for customers until cleaned.
Flood victims said the red closure signs were posted without warning. They called the signs threatening and confusing. Owners said the signs fueled rumors that their businesses were permanently closed.
The Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park, located in Eastport, received closure orders. At first, President and CEO Alice Estrada didn't know how to clear the shutdown notice.
"It's quite threatening," Estrada told Patch on Jan. 11, the day after the third-worst flood in city history. "We don't know what it is and we don't know how to cure it, to be honest. There's no instructions."
A 5.1-foot storm surge rolled into Annapolis on Jan. 9 and 10. It was the worst flood since Hurricane Isabel swamped the city with a record 7.16 feet in 2003.
This time around, the maritime museum was flooded with 18 inches that caused an estimated $45,000 in damage. The waterfront museum initially hoped to reopen within a week, but it announced Tuesday that it will be closed until further notice for repairs.
The museum eventually got some clarification on the closure signs. It still thinks the city could've communicated better.
"After several requests[,] the City responded and provided some vague directions," Estrada told Patch in a Wednesday text. "They were supposed to come by today between 10 am and noon but never showed up ... We are still confused about why [we] received these in the first place."
These buildings were still under closure orders as of the city's last update on Tuesday:
- Annapolis Maritime Museum
- Eastport Yacht Center
- EYC Offices
- Harbour Square shopping mall
- Pip's Dock Street Dogs
- Eagle Souvenir
- Moe's Southwest Grill (Inspections happened Tuesday. Patch requested the city's results.)
- Bitty & Beaus Coffee
- Storm Brothers Ice Cream Factory
Every business that Patch interviewed plans to make repairs and reopen as soon as possible.
Eight other businesses were hit with closure notices, but they have since passed all their inspections. Seven of those establishments are located at City Dock. One is in Eastport near Back Creek.
Storm Brothers will be closed for at least a month.
The ice cream parlor said it suffered up to $80,000 in damage from 32 inches of flooding. It was the fourth time the Dock Street shop flooded since it opened in 1976.
This was the first time the city posted those closure orders after a flood, Storm Brothers said.
Owner Sveinn Storm called the signs "unconscionable" and said they "fed the rumors that Storm Brothers is done."
"You are sending a message to the public," Storm said. "We've covered up the windows now because we have people lined up in front of our store taking photographs, and that bothers me no end ... It really isn't fair."
Officials say the shutdowns protected customers from potential sewage exposure.
Older buildings, like the ones downtown, lack modern protections to prevent sewage contamination during floods.
The floodwater goes down the floor drains, enters the sewer system and brings sewage back up into the buildings. There is technology to prevent that, but it's expensive to retrofit and is only required in new construction.
Not every closed business had sewage contamination, but inspectors must sign off before reopening just in case.
The Anne Arundel County Department of Health conducts the first inspection. The City of Annapolis Department of Planning and Zoning, which posted the closure orders, then removes the signs.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley (D) understands this frustrates business owners, but he said safety is his top priority.
"We have to make sure that the buildings are safe for the public," Buckley said. "We're doing everything we can to expedite any inspections or anything that people need. As soon as people have told me they've passed their health inspection, we've had our inspectors in there straight away to take the signs away."
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