Retro Baltimore

When Tropical Storm David flooded Mount Washington 40 years ago

Eileen Aaron, owner of the Something Special boutique, begins cleaning out her Newbury Street store. Waist-high water destroyed most of her stock. Tropical Storm David's flooding caught Mount Washington merchants by surprise.

Hurricane David had been downgraded to a tropical storm when it lashed out at Central Maryland and brutally took a direct hit at Baltimore 40 years ago. The weather event formed in the Caribbean in August 1979 and moved up the East Coast of the U.S., from Florida to Maine.

On the afternoon and night of Sept. 5, 1979, the storm made a direct hit throughout Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.


A tornado destroyed an uncompleted home in Kingsville just as construction workers were leaving for the day. Heavy rains from the storm pumped the Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls over their banks. Automobiles swept off the street along Frederick Road near Ten Hills piled up as if they had been towed to a junkyard. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum’s collection of vintage transit vehicles suffered major damage as flood waters corroded electric motors.

A 22-year-old woman drowned as she was trapped on the Jones Falls Expressway at 1 a.m. More than 100 workers at the Pepsi-Cola plant, also in the Jones Falls Valley, had to be rescued by boat as the falls quickly surged that stormy night.


Some of the worst damage was concentrated in the Mount Washington shopping village, where store owners were helpless as their retail inventories were destroyed by water and mud.

Streets flooded in Oella and Ellicott City. Amtrak shut down train service after tracks washed out near Cheverly in Prince George’s County.

Eventually, President Jimmy Carter declared a disaster area. News stories said that Baltimore sustained $40 million of the total $66 million damage in the state.