Howard County to test Ellicott City flood alert system Wednesday morning

On Wednesday, Howard County officials will conduct testing of the new public alert system meant to warn of potential flooding in historic Ellicott City.

The tests will occur between 10 and 11 a.m and will confirm the alert system’s travel distance and functionality. A variety of tones and speech will be used, and each test will last between two seconds and two minutes.


If there is a flash flood watch in effect on the day of the testing, officials will reschedule.

After Wednesday’s test are complete, officials will conduct three types of tests regularly:

  • Every Thursday at 10 a.m., a silent test will last for less than two seconds and will be a high pitched short burst of sound. This alert will not occur on the second Thursday of each month.
  • On the second Thursday of every month at 10 a.m., a voice alert and short single tone will be tested.
  • Every December, a full alert of a pulsed tone flash flood warning will last less than two minutes.

Those in the historic district are able to receive alerts on smartphones if notifications are enacted. The county last month purchased two temporary speakers, which are located at the Welcome Center on Main Street and the Ellicott City Colored School on Frederick Road which runs directly into Main Street.

Howard will spend between $113.5 million and $140 million to ease future flooding in the old mill town which was twice ravaged by heavy rainwater in 2016 and 2018. The plan requires razing four buildings above the Tiber channel and boring a tunnel on the north side of Main Street.