After suffering two "thousand-year storms" in two years, Howard County has reopened a main route to Ellicott City's Main Street, revealing a new sturdy waterway under the road aimed at preventing future devastation during heavy rains.
The flood destruction was both literal and symbolic, but the reopening of a stretch of road leading to Ellicott City’s Main Street is a major step forward as the city recovers from two “thousand-year storms” in two years.
During the May 27, 2018 flooding, a 25-foot portion of Ellicott Mills Drive — a primary entry route to Ellicott City’s historic Main Street — was washed away.
Howard County reopened the closed stretch of Ellicott Mills Drive on Friday after building a sturdy waterway under the road, aimed at preventing future devastation during heavy rains.
Last year, an aluminum culvert, installed in 1970, approximately 9 feet high by 13 feet wide, was overwhelmed as the Tiber River surged during 7 inches of rain, sweeping tons of cars downstream to where three creeks dump into the Patapsco River.
Now, 11 months later, a new culvert, made of 57 precast concrete pieces — each weighing 23 tons — runs below the newly-paved Ellicott Mills Drive.
The road was fully opened to car traffic Friday, just in time for Saturday’s SpringFest.
The historic mill town has always been vulnerable to flooding, in part because of its location in a valley of the upper Western Branch of the Patapsco, near where the Tiber Branch, Hudson Branch, Autumn Hill Branch and New Cut Branch all converge.
The Tiber crisscrosses Main Street in several places between Rogers Avenue and the Patapsco, in culverts that steer the water as it snakes downhill through the town.
County officials hope reopening access from Ellicott Mills Drive in time for SpringFest will help business owners who suffered as visitors had to navigate alternate routes to get to the most popular and flood-prone stretch of Main Street.
The free and family-friendly SpringFest is Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and will feature music on three outdoor stages, as well as crafts, food, wine, and locally brewed craft beer.
Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.