Howard History

The Patapsco, `a right evil stream'

June 24, 2007

(Editor's note: On June 21-22, 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes destroyed much of historic Ellicott City and areas of Elkridge. Much of Main Street in historic Ellicott City was underwater, the bridge over the Patapsco was severely damaged and the historic Ellicott House succumbed to the river. Most tragically, seven people drowned in the Patapsco.)

As reported in the June 24, 1972, edition of The Sun:

"That's a right evil stream," Omar J. Jones, the Howard county executive, said yesterday. He pointed to the Patapsco River still muddy and swollen, but no longer raging through downtown Ellicott City.

"Unbelievable," he muttered, looking across the ravaged town to the ruins of two historic stone buildings on the other side of the river.

The old buildings constructed almost 200 hundred years ago by the Ellicott brothers, were virtually destroyed in the flood that submerged Main street here Thursday.

Yesterday, this scenic town was a muddy ruin. And the shopkeepers and residents who fled from the raging waters Thursday night were just beginning to pick up the pieces.

"All my furniture went down the river," said Mrs. Edyth Weber, owner of one of the many antiques shops that line the winding, hilly streets here.

While a crew of 50 men from the Department of Public Works shoveled away the mud, other shop owners began boarding up their broken display windows.

Greg Comstock, a 26-year-old bicycle mechanic, was retrieving the remains of 30 bikes that had floated through the shattered store window and ended up about 300 feet away when the water receded.

Near the broken bicycles, about 25 smashed automobiles were strewn at the foot of the hill.

One couple, Tom and Elizabeth Cate, said they "stayed through the whole thing" until they were chased out by the National Guard when the town was put under martial law.

County officials estimated the damage in the county at more than $3 million. They said 35 bridges were washed out during the storm. Officials estimated it will take up to two months to clear away the rubble and "years to rebuild the destruction."

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