Under Flood Watch One Year After Deadly Rains, Ellicott City Proceeding With Weekend Commemoration

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Photo of Ellicott City in May 2016. By Famartin, via Wikimedia Commons.

Almost one year ago to this day, a deadly flood swept through Old Ellicott City and took much of the town with it into the Patapsco River. This weekend, the Ellicott City community will be commemorating the sad occasion while outlasting another threat of a flood.

The National Weather Service today issued a flash flood watch applying to the entire state, with the potential for three to five inches of rain falling across the region through Saturday afternoon, or more in certain areas depending if they get heavy thunderstorms.

The feeling is almost eerie. A similar weather pattern hit the area on July 30, 2016, pouring a half-foot of rain on Ellicott City and between three and four inches on the rest of the Baltimore area within roughly two hours. According to the NWS, the flash flood caused the Patapsco River to rise “just over 13 feet” in 100 minutes.

The result was terror, with water flowing through Main Street of the historic section of the Howard County town. Two people died, stores were destroyed and dozens of cars were swept away. Many business owners lost their livelihoods and had to either call it quits or persevere and rebuild.

For the most part, they persevered. Many merchants have flood-proofed their buildings, and after a yearlong study, Howard County administrators announced a series of flood mitigation strategies two days ago. They include installing several stormwater retention areas in the Patapsco Watershed, as well as “a series of culvert and channel improvements” in the western end of the town, according to a release.

The stormwater retention facilities will go in the Tiber Branch, New Cut Branch and Hudson Branch of the river, and crews will also be making significant storm drain improvements along Frederick Road. In all, the projects will cost $18 million. County Executive Allan Kittleman said he’ll look for federal and state assistance to ease the financial burden.

This weekend, Howard County is hosting a “Flood Anniversary Commemoration” weekend. It begins with a “Reflect and Remember” gathering starting at 7 a.m. tomorrow, followed by other Saturday events like a 5K race, farmer’s market, a tour through the recovered business district and, ceremoniously, a dedication of a new clock to replace the old one that was swept away in the flood. Sunday looks to be more spiritual, with a yoga and meditation session and worship service, among other programming.

And, as of 4 p.m. on Friday, officials aren’t letting another flood threat spook them.

“All weekend events sponsored by the Ellicott City Partnership to commemorate last year’s flood are moving ahead as scheduled,” reads a memo from Howard County spokesman Mark Miller sent out at 3 p.m. He noted that the rain is expected to be significant, but should fall at a more prolonged pace compared to last summer’s flash flood.

Those looking to brave the weather and commemorate the anniversary with Ellicott City business owners and residents can find the full schedule of events here.

Ethan McLeod
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