May 29, 2018

Ellicott City residents wonder: Was enough done after the 2016 flood to prepare for the next one?

Ellicott City, MD
USA
by
Doyle Rice
,
USA TODAY
Damaged cars displaced by floodwaters along Main Street in Ellicott City, Md., on May 27, 2018. Photo: JIM LO SCALZO, EPA-EFE
Damaged cars displaced by floodwaters along Main Street in Ellicott City, Md., on May 27, 2018. Photo: JIM LO SCALZO, EPA-EFE

The second 1-in-1,000-year flood in two years devastated quaint Ellicott City, Md., on Sunday, leaving residents to ask: Did the city or Howard County do enough after the first flood to prepare for the next one?

"Tremendous progress has been made since the tragic flooding that occurred July 30, 2016," a Howard County master plan report said just last week. The county also announced that a new flood warning system with new stream gauges was scheduled to be installed next month.

Howard County executive Allan Kittleman, at a Monday news conference, said about 30% of the flood mitigation efforts the county had been tackling since the 2016 flood had been completed: “We’ve done a lot, but you can’t get that much done in 22 months. It wasn’t like we had not done anything," he said.

“Ellicott City was as prepared as it could be," Kittleman said. "When you have 8 inches coming down (in three hours), terrible things can happen. ... Something like this is so devastatingly strong it is difficult to handle.”

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The city has flooded at least 15 times in the past couple of centuries, Forbes magazine reported. It sits in a valley near the Patapsco River, making the region prone to flooding.

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Sunday's rain was exceptional: “In a normal heavy rain … you wouldn’t see this amount of flooding, where you see cars floating down the road,” said meteorologist Mike Muccilli with the National Weather Service. “This was a true flash flood.”