Cissell Avenue in North Laurel is pockmarked by the ravages of rain.
It has swept so much dirt from Ron Giddings' front yard that his cable lines are exposed. It has knocked the foundation out from under a neighbor's mailbox. It has eaten away at the ditches beside the road, rushed underneath the old pavement and triggered collapses.
And water regularly pools on Donna Thewes' property even though she put in two extra sump pumps and French drains all around her house.
The Howard County neighborhood is a potent reminder of the unintended effects of man altering the landscape without fully accounting for the wrath of Mother Nature.
Sixteen times more storm water runs off when concrete replaces absorbent meadows, and many Maryland neighborhoods built before the 1980s were not engineered with systems to keep the runoff from gathering speed and causing damage. Some old neighborhoods have only narrow ditches to handle moving water and nothing to hold it so it can seep into the ground.
The environment takes the brunt of the impact. Runoff gushes into streams and the Chesapeake Bay, bringing with it eroded sediment that clogs channels and kills aquatic life.
For residents of Cissell Avenue, just north of the Patuxent River, the problem hits home. Runoff has troubled them for years, and the copious amounts of rain recently have added to their frustration.
"The water has no place to go," said Thewes, who figures her basement has flooded about 50 times since she moved in 15 years ago, and her lawn more times than she can count. " ... People's yards are constantly eroding away."
New development in older communities is adding to the runoff problem, said James M. Irvin, director of Howard County's Department of Public Works. He is increasingly nervous about the mounting costs - how to pay to add pipes and catchment ponds where none exist at the same time that old ponds need to be mucked out and repaired.
"It's a huge problem in the Baltimore metropolitan area," said Irvin, whose department gets 30 to 50 "legitimate" flooding complaints annually. "Virtually every other government has the same situation. You spend a little bit each year; someday you're going to have to spend a lot to catch up. That's the dilemma we face."
Baltimore County, which has many more old neighborhoods than Howard, investigates about 500 drainage complaints a year. Steven Walsh, chief of the storm drain design section of the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, said some aged streets don't have any systems to control or move runoff.
"Water goes where it wants to go," he said. "There may be houses in the way."
If a runoff problem exists downstream of a proposed subdivision in Anne Arundel County, the developer has to fix it. Sometimes the fix is so expensive that the proposed homes are scrapped.
For storm-water management problems, "there is no simple solution," said Merril Plait, an assistant planning and zoning officer in Anne Arundel.
It is easier in Baltimore, though: Development patterns are largely set and so is the storm drainage system, said public works spokesman Kurt Kocher.
Meanwhile, Howard is trying - slowly - to fix some errors of the past.
On Cissell Avenue, part of the North Laurel Park community that was originally subdivided about 1890 and is still growing, neighbors appear to be on the verge of getting some relief after years of lobbying for help.
They argue that new homes are contributing to their water woes. Their proximity to the Patuxent River does not help.
Howard's Department of Public Works is planning to spend about $250,000 to install a drainage pipe this summer behind a few of the homes on Cissell, an attempt to reduce erosion. Cissell's storm-water management now is limited to a few ditches and a small pipe under the road.
"Typically our drainage problems are in the older neighborhoods," said Howard Saltzman, chief of storm-water management for Howard's public works. "Possibly they were designed to different standards. Probably people 50 years ago had no idea the kind of development we'd have today."
The Center for Watershed Protection, based in Ellicott City, is loath to recommend installing pipes because they quickly move storm water elsewhere, where it can continue to cause problems. Curbs, gutters and sidewalks - installed uphill from Cissell - also let runoff pick up speed, said Paul Sturm, a watershed planner.
Grassy swales, rain barrels and rain gardens full of thirsty plants can help contain runoff, he said. But that works best at the source of the problem, he added, which for Cissell residents is uphill and out of their control.
A decent storm or a few days of minor downpours can flood the road's small trenches, Thewes said. Water funneling down the narrow avenue from higher streets ends up pooling in the lowest spot around - people's lawns.
Dominic Wood, a retired Department of Defense employee who moved to the neighborhood in 1977, estimates that he has lost 5 feet of his back yard to erosion.