The beautiful and historic town of Ellicott City was devastated again by a flood on May 26, 2018. The Washington Post did an interesting historical piece to give the recent disaster some perspective. Above, a Harper’s Weekly illustration of the 1868 flood.
‘Beyond rescue’: Ellicott City’s bizarre, rainless flood and its deadly 20-foot wall of water
By Kevin Ambrose
It did not rain, at least not in Ellicott City. That’s what made the 1868 flood so bizarre and unexpected for the residents of Ellicott City, Md., who were reeling again this week after being devastated by their second 1,000-year flood in two years.
A 39-year-old National Guard sergeant was swept away Sunday as he tried to rescue a woman trapped by the raging waters on Main Street.
But the flood on July 24, 1868, was far deadlier, claiming the lives of dozens of people. According to David Healey, author of “Great Storms of the Chesapeake,” the tremendous thunderstorm that caused the flood 150 years ago stayed west of town.
On that fateful day in July, light from the setting sun was completely blacked out by tall thunderstorm clouds to the west of Ellicott City, which was founded in 1772 at the site of a grist mill along the banks of the Patapsco River.
Birds stopped singing, mill workers were forced to quit early, and flashes of lightning filled the western sky. Residents of the thriving town, which served as the terminus of the first section of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, braced for a storm, but it never arrived. The storm, probably stationary, didn’t move east, but its runoff certainly did.
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