Year in Review: Wild weather leads to closures cancellations, flood damage, tornado

The Maryland Microbrewery Festival. The Union Mills Corn Roast. The Westminster FallFest Parade, and Westminster’s Holiday Parade.

What do those events, each hosted annually in Carroll County, have in common?


In 2018, they were canceled because of rain.

The warning is for Carroll, Howard, northern Montgomery, southeastern Frederick and western Baltimore counties, according to the National Weather Service.

The year yielded unprecedented precipitation and unusual weather events. The Baltimore area was soaked with some 70 inches of rain in 2018 — the highest total on record, according to National Weather Service data.


Rain impacted Carroll County social life, hurt its storied agricultural industry and damaged infrastructure.

Floods wash out roads, utilities maintenance shop; force closure of Cascade Lake

Nearly 10 days of consistent rainfall in early June forced the Carroll County Bureau of Roads to touch up gravel roads and close other roadways when soils saturated by above-average rain since May could no longer support trees, letting them fall and deter traffic.

That trend would prove to be unrelenting as 2018 progressed.

After the sky opened up one July weekend, pouring up to 6 inches of rain across the county, the forecast called for more moisture.


And in this case the meteorologists were spot on.

Two days later torrential rains dumped on Carroll, closing myriad roads, including Md. 27, where two Westminster residents’ car stalled out near Nicodemus Road.

After heavy rains overnight Friday filled Cascade Lake to the brim by Saturday morning, Carroll County officials cautioned that an uncontrolled breach of the lake’s dam, and thus further flooding, was possible.

Sinkholes. Trees in the wires. Washouts. Flooding. The bureau had to employ an encyclopedia’s worth of road closure designations to inform county residents which directions they couldn’t travel and why.

The same storm on July 25 prompted Cascade Lake to overflow, flooding and forcing the closures of multiple county roads. Many of those roads remained closed the following day.

With Cascade Lake over capacity, something had to be done. Crews worked diligently to pump water from behind the structurally damaged dam. Officials called for a controlled breach of the dam. The controlled breach would alleviate the close-to-capacity lake, but put downstream areas at risk of floods.

The damage to the dam was so great that all lake activities were canceled for the remainder of the summer season.

In late August, the county gave approval to apply for $50,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Small Watershed Grant to fund the planning and concept design to restore a stream at the 6-acre lake. Rather than rebuilding the dam, the owners expressed a desire to restore it to a natural stream with wetlands, according to Gale Engles, the county’s bureau chief of resource management.

Also during the late July deluge, Cranberry Branch Creek’s peak water level of 8.73 feet far surpassed the previous record of 7.5. Firefighters and other first responders had to deploy swift water rescue teams on multiple occasions.

A torrent of flood water rushed through a Westminster public works facility July 25, damaging the building extensively and prompting utilities workers to salvage expensive equipment. City officials estimate the damages to cost between $150,000 and $175,000. 

That same July storm sent a torrent of flood water through the City of Westminster utility maintenance shop, causing an estimated $150,000 in damage. Save for a heroic effort from public works staff to save many expensive machines stored in the shop, the damage could’ve been far worse.

Tornado touches down in Mount Airy

A Nov. 2 storm with powerful, swirling winds downed trees around Pheasant Ridge, and lifted a roof and a gas station canopy in Mount Airy’s retail area before crossing Watersville Road and leaving a trail of snapped power poles and pine trees in its wake.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down in Mount Airy Friday night, one of two that hit the state.

The storm was so significant that it prompted the National Weather Service to survey the area. The organization later confirmed the damaging storm was an EF-1 tornado, which traveled 4.7 miles with a maximum width of 400 yards and winds peaking at 100 mph.

Residents effected by the twister were left shaken, describing the storm as unsettling and unforgettable.

Luckily in the Carroll County portion the storm caused only three minor injuries. In Southeast Baltimore, the storm partially collapsed an Amazon distribution warehouse, leaving two men dead.

Carroll County residents and those traveling near Mount Airy during the EF-1 tornado event in Mount Airy Friday, Nov. 2 described it as unsettling and memorable.

Damage in the Mount Airy area prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to request physical disaster declaration in Carroll County. The Small Business Administration approved the Governor’s request in early December. The designation opened the door for qualifying businesses to apply for low-interest loans for tornado-damage repairs.

Rained out

For the first time in 45 years the annual Union Mills Homestead and Corn Roast Festival was canceled because of wet weather on the horizon.

It turned out to be the right call. Heavy rain pummeled Carroll and by morning Aug. 4, when the festival was scheduled, the festival grounds were unrecognizable beneath a lake of muddy brown water.

Next it was the wine, with the 35th annual Maryland Wine Festival being postponed nearly a month because a rainy forecast associated with Hurricane Florence forced planners to make a call for the event, originally scheduled for Sept. 15-16.

The annual Union Mills Homestead and Corn Roast Festival scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4, has been canceled due to excessive rain and flooding. It is the first time in more than 45 years the event will not take place.

Wine lovers would get their chance to indulge on Oct. 13 — with an autumnal feel. Enthusiasts of other libations wouldn’t be so lucky, however.


Still reeling from the August floods, the Union Mills Homestead called off the Maryland Microbrewery Festival, which was slated for the end of September.

About 20 breweries, 10 food vendors and three bands were signed up for the 2018 rendition of the event, which celebrates Maryland’s microbrewing industry. They’d have to wait for 2019’s sud-sipping extravaganza.

A forecast guaranteeing precipitation for the kickoff event of Westminster’s FallFest forced the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks to cancel the outdoor parade Sept. 27 and move the cornhole tournament indoors.

The city of Westminster Tree Lighting and childrens activities at the library went on despite a downpour that cancelled the city's Miracle on Main Street Holiday Parade.

Parade-goers would again be disappointed in late November, when frightful weather forced the hands of the Miracle on Main Street Holiday Parade in Westminster.

Those already full of holiday cheer would still be able to greet Santa Claus at the city’s tree lighting ceremony.

Event planners and festival goers will have to be hoping 2019 provides better weather, sparing their occasions of pesky precipitation.

Carroll crops hurt by unprecedented precipitation

Those seeking fun, festive activities weren’t the only ones effected by the year of epic rains. Carroll farmers, too, were left looking toward 2019 for better fortunes.

Inches and inches of rain over the summer in Maryland have cause frustrations for farmers during the apple harvest.

Orchards saw more apples rot than years prior.

Pumpkin pickers didn’t notice at the patches, but this year was tough on the gourds too. The large orange fruits spent the majority of the late summer laying on soaked soil, which tends to soften and rot the bottoms.

And it wasn’t just the wine festival that was impacted by prolonged rains, Carroll’s grape growers suffered, too. Unlike robust, juicy grapes found in the produce aisles of grocery stores, wine grapes are meant to be small and dry. This summer was far from it.

Heavy rains have triggered flash floods, soaked the ground and closed roads in Carroll County this summer.  They’ve also complicated an already tricky grape-growing season for vineyards and wineries.

Some vineyards said they got a good crop, but less of it. The rains complicated things.

And then there are the corn, soybeans, small grains and hay — the staples of Carroll County agriculture. Those, perhaps more so than others, were cursed by what many farmers said was a year like none they’d experienced.

The Carroll County agricultural industry, a pillar of its rural culture, has been left reeling after unrelenting rains soaked fields, delaying planting and rotting crops. In late November, the Trump Administration released its latest report on climate change, which predicts wetter weather and more.

Early rains delay planting, as driving heavy machinery over saturated ground compromises soil structure with deep ruts. Prolonged precipitation once the crops are planted leads to molding and disease. Late moisture presents problems akin to those in early season. All affect productivity, crop yields and plant nutrition.

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