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Photo exhibit commemorates the inundation of Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972

It's hard to believe that 40 years have passed since Tropical Storm Agnes hit our area in June, 1972, and caused so much damage. Like others who lived through it, I remember it well.

I was living in my parents' home in Catonsville at the time. We were aware of heavy rain, but it didn't hit us how serious it was until an early morning call came from a neighbor, who asked my father for help bailing out his basement.

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Well, Dad rushed right over to help-without checking out his own basement first. Our basement was flooded as well, and the bailing continued for quite a while.

Like everywhere else hit by the storm it isn't just the water itself, it is what the water leaves behind — dirt and debris and soaked treasures of a lifetime and, in my case, floating wedding shower gifts.

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In those days we didn't have a sump pump, so every bucket had to be delivered up and out. Unforgettable.

While our mini-drama was unfolding, just a few miles up the street downtown Ellicott City was enduring a change that would take it in a whole new direction.

Main Street and beyond wasn't a historic district yet — shop owners would have laughed at such a designation for the cluster of barber shops, grocery stores, casual diners and gas stations that made up that stretch of town.

If you visit the B&O Railroad Station Museum, Ellicott City Station, you can see the marker next to the building that records the height of the various floods that have inundated the town over the centuries. Tropical Storm Agnes is right there among the worst, with the water swelling to ten feet over the sidewalk.

After the water receded, neighbors pitched in to help each other, and the seeds of change were planted.

The service stores gradually migrated to Route 40 and later to the Columbia mall, and antique shops, fine restaurants and historic sites became the reason to come to town.

One person who recorded the event and aftermath is my friend Bob Miller, a local photographer and videographer. He rode everywhere he could on his motorcycle, and his photographs are among the most vivid, helping us understand the scope of the damage and the difficulty of the recovery.

Howard County Tourism and Promotion is presenting a photograph exhibit and video of the flood at its Welcome Center, 8267 Main St. This program includes a video produced by Bob Miller, as well as photographs from him and other sources, including the Howard County Historical Society, Ellicottcity.net and the Baltimore Sun archives.

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The video will run on Saturdays and Sundays in June, and the photographs will be on display daily throughout the month. The Welcome Center is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

And what about the future? The area is a lot more built up than it was 40 years ago, but communications are a lot more sophisticated as well.

I recently went to the Howard County Government website and signed up for a feature called "NotifyMeHoward." This service ensures that I will get the earliest notification of imminent problems in my area, so I can evacuate or deal with it.

Signing up is easy, and one way to prepare for a natural disaster that no one can control. We saw from Tropical Storm Lee just this past fall that our historic district is still prone to flooding, so we need to do all we can to prepare for the future.

Our little village is a gem that we should continue to work together to preserve.

Photo Contest Winners

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The Ellicott City Restoration Foundation has announced the winners of its 8th annual photo contest.

In the adult category, the winner is Paul Bertulis. The junior winner is Sarah Huber and the special category "Off the Beaten Path"winner is Paul Biederman.

The photos will continue on display at the Howard County Historical Society Museum through July. The museum is at 8328 Court Ave., and is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Barbara Sieg

This is a special shout-out to recognize Barbara Sieg, who was recently honored for her 25 years of service to the Whipps Garden Cemetery.

Barbara found the cemetery in disarray, and worked hard with other volunteers to make it the lovely property it is today. In 1999, she expanded her efforts by founding the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, which is dedicated to preserving and protecting old family and public cemeteries, historic churchyards and Indian burial grounds.

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Her hard work will ensure that these special places will receive the attention that they deserve.


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