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Lawmaker: 'Did climate change kill two people in Ellicott City?'

A state lawmaker suggested Monday that climate change could be to blame for the flash-flood that killed two people and destroyed much of historic Ellicott City Saturday night.

"The deaths and damage caused by this weekend's flash flood in Ellicott City, as well as the damage caused elsewhere, reminds us that climate change is about more than polar bears and the rising sea level in the Chesapeake Bay," said Sen. James Rosapepe, co-chair of a key environmental subcommittee in the Maryland Senate.

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He asked: "Did climate change kill two people in Ellicott City this weekend?"

Rosapepe, a Democrat, said Maryland is ill-prepared to prevent flash-flooding largely because much of its climate change planning focuses on rising sea levels.

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He raised that possibility that the once-in-a-thousand-year flooding this weekend was linked to rising global temperatures.

"It would be very naive if we did not see this as part of climate change," Rosapepe said in an interview. "Those of us who live upland are really impacted by climate change, and this is the perfect example."

Rosapepe acknowledged science could not prove climate change caused particular flash-flood, but he said the increased frequency of flash-flooding in general is due to climate change and said that is an ongoing public safety problem for the entire state.

"It's a little bit like terrorism, in that we don't know what nut-job is going to shoot someone else. But we do know that there are nut-jobs out there that are likely to shoot someone," he said. "So we have to prepare ourselves."

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Rosapepe, who has been critical of the state's preparedness for natural disasters, said he hopes to draw attention to how areas away from the coastline need to take climate change seriously.

"Ellicott City was built for the climate of the 19th century. It's beautiful, and that's why we love it. But it needs to be built to be safe for the 21st century climate," Rosapepe said.

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