Ellicott City, Baltimore region devastated by 'once-every-1,000-years flood'

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan late Sunday night declared a state of emergency in Ellicott City after a massive rainstorm caused flash flooding that destroyed businesses and submerged cars in what he called a “once-every-1,000-years flood.”

News outlets showed photos and video of sudden, violent floodwaters surging down Main Street in Ellicott City, some 13 miles west of Baltimore. The community, set along the west bank of Maryland's Patapsco River, was also stricken by deadly flash flooding in July 2016.

Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman said at a news conference late Sunday that this storm was worse than in 2016. Residents and business owners, Kittleman said, “are faced with the same daunting task again.”

“We will be there for them as we were in 2016,” he said.

Jessica Ur, a server at Pure Wine Cafe on the city’s Main Street, told The Baltimore Sun that she watched as gushing waters swept three or four parked cars down the street.

“It’s significantly higher than it was before,” she told the newspaper, comparing the floodwaters to those of 2016.

Mike Muccilli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia, said it’s too early to make comparisons between the two floods. But he said both were devastating.

In July 2016, Ellicott City received 6.6 inches of rain over a two- to three-hour period. On Sunday, the community received nearly 8 inches of rain over a six-hour period, but most of it fell during an intense, three-hour period, Muccilli said.

Some people reported hearing a blaring alarm during the flooding. Others said they gathered in the second story of a building to anxiously watch the seething waters. One sight during the flood: a handmade, white flag hung from an upper story of a Main Street building bearing the letters SOS.

“If you are trapped, we are coming,” the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services tweeted at one point.

Ellicott City has been rebuilding since the 2016 flooding damaged and destroyed businesses. Local officials recently said that 96 percent of the businesses were back in operation and more than 20 new businesses had again opened in the Main Street area.

Just two weeks ago, Hogan announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had awarded the state and county more than $1 million to pay for projects aimed at reducing the flood risk in areas around Main Street.

Some are already asking questions about whether enough was done after the last flood to prevent a similar catastrophe.

Hogan said temporary improvements were in place and more things were in the works to reduce the community’s vulnerabilities. But he said big changes take time, and no one expected such a huge flood so soon after 2016.

The Associated Press contributed to this report