Human Stories of the Maryland RENEW Act: Nick Johnson

His Ellicott City Business Was Inundated by One-In-A-Century Floods—Twice.

When the catastrophic floods came to Ellicott City in 2016, Nick Johnson was devastated. He’s the owner of a furniture store called Su Casa that was right in the path of the floods.  Every inch of the store was completely covered in mud and water. But they were able to fix it up and hoped it would never happen again. They called it a 1-in-1000 year storm.

It happened again less than two years later. 

Nick Johnson opened his furniture store more in Ellicott City than 20 years ago, hoping to help locals find unique, personalized ways to make their house a home. Then when the floods came in 2016, he was terrified. When the floods came again, two years later, he was heartbroken. There were cars and dumpsters going down the street and people were stuck in their homes. Su Casa was completely covered in water and mud. 


The financial toll of the climate crisis is staggering. In Maryland, about 30% of rainstorms during the period 2007-2016 would have fallen into the top 1% of storm intensity had they occurred in the 1950s. From 2000 to 2020, precipitation in Maryland increased by 2.63 inches per decade, according to NOAA. These storms are happening more widely and in places that aren’t used to such intense periods of rain. A huge majority of flooding events happen outside of FEMA-designated “flood zones.” Floods in Maryland between 2006 and 2020 affected, on average, more than 480,000 people annually. The disruptions  cost about $15 million per year in Maryland and totaled more than $230 million during the study period—and that’s not including other major expenses like emergency response and infrastructure repairs.

The most important single thing to prevent these costs in the future is to build resilience. Projects in these lines have included the effort to raise a low-lying bend of U.S. 1 by three feet, which cost $10.6 million, and highway stabilization on the I-694 at Cromwell Bridge, which cost $12.7 million. These have been effective so far, but only comprise a tiny portion of the state and what’s to come. 

The slow-moving disaster of global warming is costly. That’s why Maryland legislators are considering the Responding to Emergency Needs from Extreme Weather (RENEW) Act. The RENEW Act would invest $900 million a year for ten years into climate adaptation and mitigation — including drainage tunnels and other defenses against flash floods. 

Nick’s story is just one of many playing out across Maryland as extreme weather events take a growing toll. A recent Gonzales poll found that 48% of Marylanders have been personally harmed financially by climate change within the past three years. Surviving these increasingly common extreme weather events will require investing in the natural and physical infrastructure needed to withstand hotter hots, wetter wets, and higher tides. But it’s about more than weather. For many people, their way of life is at stake. 

That’s why we need your help to pass the RENEW Act as quickly as possible and make these resiliency investments before it’s too late. Click here to watch the video with Nick’s story, and learn how you can take action to pass the RENEW Act today.