Ahmed Mehdizadeh can only hope and pray the meteorologists are wrong.
Otherwise, it’s likely his Cockeyville café will be flooded for possibly a seventh time in the last five years, he said.
A powerful coastal storm in front of Hurricane Joaquin could make for a one-two punch that will be hard for Mehdizadeh to dodge.
“What else can I do? If things really get that bad, I just try to move things off the floor. Is there anything I can do? Pray to God,” he said. “I’m amazed that in a first world country that we have to go through this.”
Mehdizadeh owns Side Street Café, located at the low-lying intersection of Beaver Run Lane and York Road.
The property is surrounded by Beaverdam Run, which is prone to flooding.
His business is located about 200 feet away from York Road, which is blocked off to drivers when Beaverdam Run overflows.
Ro Hasson is a manager at The Barnyard, an outdoor furniture and shed business that sits closer to York Road, but still floods when it rains. The business has lost merchandise to flooding in the past.
“It’s frustrating because when it rains here we panic,” Hasson said. “It floods, and it floods in a matter of minutes. Not hours. When we see the water getting high we have start moving the sheds. … We don’t want to do it unless we have to.
“It gets old.”
In 2013, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered buy-outs to the businesses designated inside a flood plain along Beaver Run Lane as part of a $4 million flood mitigation package.
The Barnyard and Mehdizadeh declined the buyout.
“The FEMA buyout was the long-term solution,” David Fidler, a spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works, said. “We were kind of disappointed that all the people who were offered it did not accept it. Buy-outs have been a traditional solution for decades in the county.”
Hasson said Mehdizadeh, who goes by “Ozzie,” has been the one making the calls to try to fix the problem.
“I called, I’m not exaggerating 20 numbers,” he said describing a bureaucratic nightmare. “They send it back and forth.”
He said a Baltimore City Department of Public Works crew was sent to the property Wednesday to remove debris from under a bridge that is located behind his café.
“What do you need this bridge for? Get rid of it,” he said. The bridge leads to an open field that is commercially unused.
Jeffrey Raymond, a city DPW spokesman, said he couldn’t confirm that Baltimore crews even performed the work Mehdizadeh described.
But he’s looking for a more long-term solution to fix the issues of flooding on York Road.
"What does it have to take? Someone to die? It floods and they drive through here crazy as hell," he said.
John Heagy, president of John Heagy Remodeling, owns the property that includes a Uhaul rental store, Side Street Café and what was the warehouse for the Sherwood Rye Whiskey distillery. Seven other businesses are located on an adjacent land parcel.
He said the last time flood water breached his warehouse was April 30, 2014. He had to be “rescued” by raft after staying behind to wait out the storm.
“I was famous,” he joked.
Heagy and Mehdizadeh believe part of the issue centers around erosion washing trees, branches and other debris into two bridges that border the property, flooding the area from two directions.
“It comes across York Road,” he said, standing on the roof of his warehouse. “Beaverdam [Run] is behind Proctor and Gamble. It can’t get under the York Road bridge because of all the sediment. … Once it gets to a certain elevation, it comes across York Road.”
Heagy spent part of his Thursday bringing valuables to the second floor of the warehouse by way of a freight elevator.
“The worst we’ve had in here is about 2 feet of water,” he said.
The County bought the property, located at 10919 York Road, for $453,663 with a FEMA grant to address flooding issues, according to earlier reports. In addition to razing the building, the County would regrade the property to decrease the degradation of the Beaverdam Run, a tributary that flows into the Loch Raven Reservoir which provides drinking water for Baltimore City and County.
“Nothing has changed,” Mehdizadeh said.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include comments from a Baltimore County Department of Public Works spokesman.