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Baltimore and Howard counties see nearly 3 inches of rain from Wednesday storm

Parts of Howard and Baltimore counties saw nearly 3 inches of rain Wednesday as a summer storm moved through the greater Baltimore area, causing flash flooding and tree damage in some areas.

While many residents in Howard and Baltimore counties dealt only with heavy rain, others were still cleaning up Thursday from the day-long storm that caused infrastructure damage and flash flooding.

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According to Mike Hinson, director of Howard County’s Office of Emergency Management, Eastern Howard County, including Ellicott City, saw 2.6 inches of rain from 1 until 7 p.m. Other parts of the county saw as little as half an inch of rain.

Early Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch until 11 p.m. for Howard County. Just before 2:30 p.m., the National Weather Service issued an areal flood warning, signaling a gradual and persistent rain.

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More than three hours later, at 5:41 p.m., a flash flood warning was issued urging residents to seek higher ground. It was at that point that the emergency sirens went off in Ellicott City, according to Hinson.

“One of the triggers to set [the alarm] off is an NWS flash Flood warning, which is what happened in this case,” Hinson said.

Dave Fullarton, an Ellicott City resident who lives on New Cut Road along with about 20 other residents, wasn’t home when the rain started, but as neighbors began calling, Fullarton realized the potential this storm had.

For a second time, the bridge at the end of Fullarton’s driveway was washed away. The more than 70-year-old bridge, which is the only way for a vehicle to enter and exit, survived the historic July 2016 flood, but had to be rebuilt after the May 2018 flood. Now, Fullarton will have to rebuild it again.

The bottom of Dave Fullarton's driveway on New Cut Road in Ellicott City before Wednesday's storm.
The bottom of Dave Fullarton's driveway on New Cut Road in Ellicott City before Wednesday's storm. (HANDOUT / HANDOUT)
The bottom of Dave Fullarton's driveway on New Cut Road in Ellicott City after Wednesday's storm.
The bottom of Dave Fullarton's driveway on New Cut Road in Ellicott City after Wednesday's storm. (HANDOUT)

“I can’t drain my life savings and finance a bridge that’s going to get washed away again,” said Fullarton, who’s lived on New Cut Road for 23 years. “Until something is done to mitigate and to slow the flow and the volume, this is going to continue to happen.”

In May 2019, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced a $140 million flood mitigation plan to ease future flooding. Ball has said he wants the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan implemented by 2025, but, as of now, there is no clear timeline. Howard County spokesperson Scott Peterson said Tuesday that the county would provide an update on the plan Aug. 27.

According to Hinson, damage in Howard County from Wednesday’s storm includes street and infrastructure damage along Bonny Branch Road, significant damage needing long-term repairs to the section between Beechwood and Ilchest roads, and driveway damage to three residents on New Cut Road.

Fullarton and his neighbor Joe Blanchfield said, in their area, rain is met with heavy runoff, a combination that has proved damaging.

“Living here on New Cut Road, every time it gets cloudy you have a knot in your stomach,” Blanchfield said.

Blanchfield said the county was cleaning up the New Cut Road area throughout the night. On Thursday, Mark DeLuca, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, met with Blanchfield and Fullarton to assess the damage and, according to Blanchfield, the county offered to help.

“For the first time in the past four years, they say that they’re going to help us. They said they’d be in touch [Friday],” Blanchfield said.

On Thursday morning, the county dug up Fullarton’s water line and put in a temporary line to give Fullarton water access after losing it during the storm. His next steps are to stabilize things around his house, retrieve vehicular access to his house and figure out where to go next.

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“I can’t live here anymore,” he said. “I can’t live like this. Nobody can live like this.”

On Thursday, Ball was happy with the execution of the flood response plans currently in place.

“[Ball] was very pleased and thankful for the hard work and dedication of our first responders, public works professionals and our Office of Emergency Management operations during these recent weather events, as well as the execution of the Safe and Sound public safety measures and the response and engagement from the residents and visitors in Ellicott City,” said Scott Peterson, Howard County spokesperson.

Gabe Fishbein wades through floodwaters to make sure people aren’t stuck inside cars on Leadnenhall St near the Hanover Cross Street apartments.

In Baltimore County, the southwest portion of the county was hit the hardest by Wednesday’s flash flooding, particularly in pockets of Lansdowne and Catonsville, said Jay Ringgold, director of Baltimore County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

As the heaviest rainfall swept across the region between 5 and 8 p.m., 2.88 inches fell on Catonsville, according to data from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network used by the National Weather Service.

The sudden precipitation flooded the 2100 block of Frederick Road, Westchester Avenue and Merrill Road, Ringgold said.

Closer to Halethorpe, 2.09 inches of rain was recorded within three hours Wednesday, and Dogwood Road and Gwynn Oak Avenue in Woodlawn and Daisy Avenue, Hollins Ferry Road and River Road in Lansdowne flooded.

River Road was one of two Baltimore County roads heavily damaged during the historic 2018 flooding. The River Road Bridge was only just replaced and reopened in June at a cost of at least $1.8 million.

Several vehicles were partially submerged in the floodwaters in those areas and some drivers required extrication, but the flooding did not cause any infrastructure damage, Ringgold said.

Videos of the flooding taken by Arbutus residents and shared on social media show the severity of the heavy rainfall as Herbert Run stream, a tributary of the Patapsco River, overflowed and water poured onto Benson, Arbutus and Ridge avenues.

Michele Downey, an Arbutus resident who has lived on the low-lying Benson Avenue for 15 years, said flooding on her street seems to have gotten more frequent over the last few years. With the street’s adjacency to Herbert Run, heavy rain that overflows the tributary inevitably washes out her road, she said.

On Wednesday night, she took a video from her porch of cars driving through the floodwaters as rain continued to fall heavily for at least an hour. Save for a washed-away trash can, Downey said there was no damage to her yard or home.

The National Weather Service said showers and thunderstorms are possible Thursday night, with additional rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch expected, with more possible in thunderstorms. A flash flood watch that was in effect earlier Thursday was canceled as of about 7:30 p.m.

Thunderstorms remain in the forecast every day through Monday.

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