Historic flood stage markers in Ellicott City, MD (credit: David J. Brantley)
Historic flood stage markers in Ellicott City, MD (credit: David J. Brantley)

Many of you may have heard by now that on Saturday, July 30, 2016 a historic rainfall event led to a historic flooding event in historic Ellicott City, MD – where the CSN offices are located.

I am happy to report that our office proper was untouched however due to the compromised or failing infrastructure in the rest of the town, we are temporarily unable to access our office space. For now, we are working remotely from our respective homes and email is still the best way to get in touch with us.

In fact, it was for its streams and rivers why Ellicott City was settled in the first place. Back in the mid-1700’s millers set upon the town with the hopes of harnessing the power of the water to run their watermills. The town gets its name from the Ellicott brothers whose flour mill helped establish the town initially after which it quickly became one of the largest milling and manufacturing towns on the east coast.

You can see from this graphic that there are 3 main tributaries that run through the town and feed into the mighty Patapsco River at the base of the town. Historically, it has been the Patapsco River that has flooded the town but during the last two big floods it has been the tributaries that have jumped their banks and wreaked havoc on the town.

Credit: Harry Schwarz, HoCoMDcc
Credit: Harry Schwarz, HoCoMDcc

But despite the importance the hydrology of the town has had upon the town’s initial establishment, these days they the rivers have proven problematic to the rest of the town. As all of us in stormwater know far too well when push comes to shove, water will do whatever it likes and steep slopes, large volumes, dense historic development and changing weather patterns can be a recipe for disaster. Our physiography leads to some unique hydrologic challenges.

To fully understand what happened, we recommend this comprehensive write-up by the National Weather Service, we know you hydrology and stormwater nerds out there will be amazed by the USGS stream gauge data included in it: http://www.weather.gov/lwx/EllicottCityFlood2016

The long and short of it is was that Ellicott City received almost 6” in 2 hours – an unprecedented and historic storm. I am sure you have all heard the news, seen the photographs and the video of the human chain but here are a few choice photographs that I have selected that I think demonstrate the power of that water.

For those of you who would like to help we recommend that you make a donation to the Ellicott City Partnership: https://ecpartnership.org/

Thank you all for your concern and offers of support. We thought you all might like to know that we are fine and undeterred from our stormwater efforts.


“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It