A Bay Journal article (2018-07-10) recounted the scientific investigation into the second devastating flood to hit downtown Ellicott City within 2 years and the steps Howard County is taking to improve the City’s resiliency against future severe flooding events. The first flood in 2016 resulted in 2 deaths and caused roughly $10 million in damages. The flood this May caused 1 death and an estimated $20 million in damages. While the City’s Main Street area recovered slowly after the first flood, most businesses and residents elected to stay. However, after the second flood, some businesses have announced they are moving and some residents are considering whether to stay.
“There’s some very large emotional, financial and political decisions to be made,” said Jim Caldwell, Howard County’s director of community sustainability. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of soul-searching (by) folks that live there.”
Downtown Ellicott City has historically been prone to flooding, although development in the region and climate change appear to have aggravated the situation in recent years. After the 2016 flood, the County commissioned an engineering study after the 2016 flood and approved a variety of projects to help mitigate future flooding. However, the second flood hit before those projects could be implemented.
Caldwell, the county community sustainability director, said after the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, he thought of three big changes that could help reduce damage from future storms – buying out some property owners and removing their buildings to open up the flood plain, “daylighting” stream channels now buried under streets and buildings, and getting vehicles off Main Street. During the 2016 flood and again in May, cars became battering rams as they washed down the street, and a few plugged up one of the culverts.
The article noted that the County is now considering a variety of additional proposals, including a thorough review of planned and future development, buying out some properties and taking down the buildings to create more pervious surface for a flood plain, and prohibiting cars on Main Street.
Learn about responding to a water crisis and communicating during an emergency at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference. Relevant panels include: “When It Rains, It Pours: Communicating in a Crisis” and “Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis.” Both panels run on August 16.
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