Ellicott City, Maryland, a scenic and historic town on the west bank of the Patapsco River, endured a tragic flash flood this past Saturday. A line of intense thunderstorms "trained" across the hilly terrain, dropping up to 8 inches of rain in three hours.
Unfortunately, several creeks merge in Ellicott City's downtown area and rapid runoff from the adjacent hills sent a torrent of water through the Main Street corridor, destroying structures and vehicles and killing two individuals. As occurred in West Virginia in late June, torrential rainfall and steep terrain combined to produce the tragic flood, which caused the Patapsco River to rise 14 feet within 90 minutes.
Videos of the flood and its aftermath offer a stunning illustration of the power of flowing water. Of course, such torrents also provide insight into the role that stream erosion has played in the evolution of our landscapes and is a potent reminder that living along rivers and creek valleys carries some risk (however rare) of destructive floods.