It was the one-in-a-thousand event no one expected to happen twice in under two years: the devastating flooding of Old Ellicott City on May 27, 2018 almost exactly 22 months after the July 30, 2016 storm. Stores, memories, history, lives- these were just a few of the things swept away in hours during the powerful storm that Sunday afternoon.
The storm in May brought 7.5” of rain in about five hours, the majority of the rain falling in just 3 hours. It wiped out businesses, destroyed cars, and even washed away 25 feet of Ellicott Mills Drive.
What made this second flood so much more heartbreaking was the fact that dozens of business owners had picked themselves up after the 2016 flood, brushed their hands off, and rebuilt, stronger than ever. Although it was a struggle, they opened up their doors for business and came out not as victims, but survivors, only for the unthinkable to happen a second time.
But when you look a little bit closer, was this second flood really all that unimaginable?
Since the 1800s, Ellicott City has endured six tributary-based floods mainly because of its location at the meeting point of the Tiber-Hudson watershed, where four tributary streams contribute to the Patapsco River. This location, though once ideal for Ellicott City’s original purpose as a mill town, and the development over stream channels has spelled disaster for the 246-year-old town.
Ellicott City lacks a natural floodplain, an area for flood water to run, meaning that man-made channels were created. Over the years, the channels have grown narrower as buildings and facilities have been established on top. At some points the channels make 90-degree turns, which are impossible for rushing flood water to flow through, and ultimately result in the water jumping the turn and flowing down the main street.
On that fateful day in May, the ravaging water ripped through storefronts, destroying anything in sight.
Jeff Braswell, owner of Primitive Beginnings, recounted the terrifying phone call he received about the flooding. At the time of the flood, Braswell was at his children’s swim practice, and rushed downtown when his employee and two customers were stuck in the store.
“I actually couldn’t believe it,” Braswell recalled. “No way there would be a 1000 year flood again.”
The 2016 flood caused major setbacks for Braswell’s other company, halting the process of moving into Main Street.
“We were 8 days from moving our other company into town in the Taylor’s building, so the [2016 flood] delayed us from moving in,” described Braswell.
“This time we actually had a retail store completely wrecked. It’s shocking to see everything you worked hard for taken from you.”
Beyond the emotional distress, financial issues surfaced immediately. The most recent flood left Braswell with no choice but to close down Primitive Beginnings’ other location in Fells Point.
Now, county officials have proposed a five-year plan which would see the demolishment of ten buildings on lower Main Street (the area most damaged), the addition of two culverts to redirect water flow, the expansion of the Ellicott Mills culvert, construction of open space on lower Main Street, and the creation of two water retention facilities.
With all of these new plans coming to fruition soon, it’s natural to wonder, was enough done after the 2016 flood?
That question is hard to answer. Efforts were made, undoubtedly, prior to the 2018 flood; however, no one really expected a second “1-in-a-1000” flood to happen in just 22 months after the 2016 storm.
Leading up to the most recent storm, recovery and prevention projects were in progress, including the construction of water retention ponds, according to a statement made by Allan Kittleman, county executive for Howard County, to the Associated Press.
It was clear to Braswell that progress, though slow, was being made.
“I’ve seen a lot of work done in town. [The county] literally just got funding to work on new projects two weeks before this past flood,” commented Braswell.
With weather patterns constantly changing, and the unpredictability of flash flooding in general, it is difficult to judge whether or not enough was done to prevent this most recent flood.
“Change takes time,” said Braswell. “It was changing. We just didn’t move fast enough.”
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This story has been revised and updated September 14, 2018, 7:04 a.m. to correct the strength of the storm as it makes landfall on the Carolina coast.
After a long summer of record-breaking heat, the east coast prepares to take on Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm originating from the lower Atlantic Ocean, just south of Bermuda. Residents of southern states like Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are strongly advised to evacuate and brace themselves and their homes.
The northern east coast can anticipate heavy rainfall around Tuesday as the storm takes a sharp turn. With the storm expected to make landfall first in North Carolina on Friday, September 14, meteorologists predict the storm will then transition into a Category 1 storm.
As Florence approaches quicker everyday, states in the storm’s direct path like North Carolina and South Carolina, prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
On May 27, Old Ellicott City suffered severe damage due to a flood. The National Weather Service reports that nearly 8.4 inches of rain fell on Ellicott City, causing the small town to flood for the 15th time since 1768, the second in the last two years.
The town’s history of flooding is primarily due to its position at the bottom of a topographical funnel, which causes all of the run-off to fall on the city. The problem is, Old Ellicott City is extremely urbanized, leaving little space for drainage.
Despite the flash flood warning, most residents were not expecting the ferocity of the storm. Yesterday was when the reality of the devastation really hit: citizens finally seeing the overturned cars, shattered glass from buildings that were destroyed, and workers struggling to fix the water line and sewage pipe that were damaged in the flooding.
To date, there has been only one confirmed fatality. Maryland National Guardsmen, Sgt. Eddison Hermond, was reported missing after assisting an unidentified woman while dining at La Palapa Grill and Cantina when the flooding began. Earlier today, his body was recovered along the Patapsco River, just over the Baltimore County line, according to multiple sources.
The destruction of the town’s shops leaves several owners debating whether or not reconstruction is worth going through with, considering the short amount of time since the last “thousand year’ flood.
Donations are pouring in to help rebuild the town along with several volunteers willing to help clean up what was left. If you would like to help, donations can be dropped off at the food bank at 9385 Gerwig Lane, Suite J, in Columbia.
If you are a student or alum of Centennial High and have been directly affected by the storms, let us help you share your story by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.
Ellicott City, MD – “I am very excited about the upcoming season for Centennial Lacrosse. We have a young team with great skill and speed. All the girls are really ready to learn and grow as lacrosse players so from here forward we will just get better,” said varsity girls lacrosse coach Rachel Lenzo.
Entering her first season as girls lacrosse coach, Lenzo feels that this year’s team will be competitive and will give it their best effort. “I am looking to raise the expectations of the team for our county play. To be competitive in every single game and give 100% win or lose, and in all situations show our character through sportsmanship to our opponents,” said Lenzo.
She also feels that in order to be competitive, she has to push every one of her lacrosse players. “We condition daily, as well as, working on fundamental lacrosse skills (catching, throwing, shooting, ground balls and draw controls). We practice our offensive sets and plays, defensive options and man up/man down plays,” said Lenzo.
Lenzo believes she has a solid team offensively and defensively. “We have a group of girls who are fast and that will benefit us in the transition. We also have some incredibly skilled defenders who I am looking to step up vocally and lead our team, as well as, attackers who can capitalize on scoring opportunities,” said Lenzo.
Ellicott City, MD – The 2013 Centennial Eagles baseball team looks to build upon last year even though the team lost key players to graduation. Coach Dennis Ahearn feels that this year will be a year to grow for the team. “[I am] Excited—-we have a young and relatively inexperienced team. I am curious to see what we can make of it all,” said Ahearn.
Ahearn feels that each of his players should try to be the best at their position and be motivated to win every game. “We expect compete to win every game and to grow throughout the season. Everyone is motivated and we have a lot of competition for starting roles,” said Ahearn.
Ahearn believes that Centennial has some good competition in Howard County. “Hebron is always a rivalry—so is River Hill. It would nice to beat teams like Glenelg and Reservoir who have very strong teams,” said Ahearn.
Ellicott City, MD – On Tuesday, February 26, the 14-8 Eagles boys’ basketball team began their journey in the playoffs. They faced off against the 13-0 Stephen Decatur High School Seahawks. Stephen Decatur, a 3A school, is located in between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay in Berlin, Maryland. Though it is unusual for a team to travel two and a half hours and over the Bay Bridge to play a match, the Seahawks made the lengthy trip to Centennial for the first round of playoffs.
With tip-off at 5:30 PM, there was a lot of positive energy in the gym. The student section was packed with almost every student wearing red. The fans began with a lot of intensity and loud cheers, as the Eagles snatched offensive rebounds and converted layups. They went on an early run, holding the Seahawks to single digits for almost all of the first quarter. The score at the half was 23-17, Eagles.
The power in the gym decreased as the game progressed. The Eagles extended their lead to fluctuating around twenty points at some moments in the match. The Seahawks could not keep up with the Eagles’ strong crashing of the boards that allowed them multiple offensive rebounds. The Eagles also intercepted many of the Seahawks’ passes to get wide-open layups or another scoring possession.
Although the Seahawks cut the Eagles’ lead to 5 points with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Eagles weren’t going home after their defeat that began from the match’s tip-off. The final score was 53-37, Eagles.
The Stephen Decatur Seahawks headed home on their long bus ride after a tough loss. Though the end of their season, the Eagles will progress to the second round. On Thursday, February 28, the Eagles will travel to River Hill High School to face off with their boys’ team at 5:30 PM.
Our deepest condolences, thoughts, and prayers are with the Centennial community, alumni, University of Maryland students, and the family and friends of Stephan Rane. Stephen was killed in a senseless act of violence at his off-campus apartment during the morning hours of February 12, 2013. He was Copy Editor of a Wingspan publication, The Wall, in 2008 and 2009, and the recipient of The English Department award upon graduation in 2009. Stephen’s wit, humor, and personality will be missed.
Howard County Times Writer, Sara Toth, wrote a wonderful article which celebrates Stephen’s life. That article can be found by clicking here.
The Centennial High School Administration has rescheduled the Winter Pep Rally for Friday, February 22, 2013. The Pep Rally was initially scheduled for Friday, February 8, but was cancelled due to a two-hour school delay.
The planned schedule for the day of the Pep Rally is:
Period 1: 7:25 – 8:15
Period 2: 8:20 – 9:05
Period 3: 9:10 – 9:55
Period 4: 10:00 – 12:00
There will NOT be a two minute break between lunches.
Period 5: 12:05 – 12:50
Period 6: 12:55 – 2:10
Students will leave backpacks in their sixth period class.
Ellicott City, MD – On Monday, January 28, Centennial Boys Varsity Basketball played against Mt. Hebron in the Hoops for Change game. The Hoops for Change game is part of the Howard County-wide “Change Matters” Campaign. Proceeds from the event went to Grassroots.
Centennial took the victory in this game with a final score of 58-43.
The game had initially been planned for Friday, January 25, 2013, but was re-scheduled for Monday due to inclement weather.