Publication Date July 31, 2016

Two dead after severe flash flood in Maryland

United States
Photo: Washington Post

In two hours, nearly six inches of rain had fallen, an event so extraordinary that the National Weather Service said it should, statistically, occur there just once every 1,000 years.

By Sunday morning, as Gov. Larry Hogan (R) prepared to declare a state of emergency, images and videos of the carnage would spread on social media: bricks torn from sidewalks, streets caved in, cars overturned, foundations obliterated, storefronts gashed, ground floors gutted.


Saturday’s disaster was not the first to befall the town.

“It seems,” the Baltimore Sun wrote in 2012, “that Ellicott City has come in for an inordinate amount of disasters from floods, fires and railroad wrecks since its founding in 1772.”

The unincorporated town of 68,000 has endured at least four major floods, according to the Maryland Historic District’s web site, including a pair in the 1970s, another in 1923 and one in 1868 that “wiped out most of early industry in the valley sparing only the flour mill.”

Ellicott City’s geography makes it particularly vulnerable, said Jason Elliott, a National Weather Service hydrologist.

It is bordered by the Patapsco and by areas of higher elevation, which means heavy rain could trigger flooding from two directions, as it did in this case