Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"A most unfortunate anniversary of sorts..."

The historical reporting of Tropical Storm Agnes is almost as chaotic as the storm itself. Depending upon various sources, the storm reached Maryland 43 years ago today... or yesterday... or Sunday. Perhaps the confusion is more about semantics, and the reporting of raining versus flooding, but regardless, the torrential storm pounded the Patapsco River region and the Old Main Line into submission, swelling the river and causing unprecedented damage from flooding.
The weather system originated in the Caribbean as early as June 14th and reached U.S. soil June 19th at Panama City, FL. It was downgraded from hurricane to tropical depression as it crossed into Georgia and South Carolina, but inexplicably regained strength by June 21st while crossing North Carolina. The tropical storm headed north and would soon wreak havoc dumping 14-19" of rain within 48-hours upon parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.

The destruction of Ellicott City is photographed from above. Maryland suffered 19 fatalities and $110 million in damage.

Flood waters in downtown Ellicott City reached 14'. The railroad trestle is in the distance sitting just a couple of feet above the water.

Curious residents climbed to the station area to see the raging flood waters once the heavy rains had ended. The lower portion of downtown is in the 100 year flood plain... Bingo!

Debris from the Patapsco River clogged the trestle to the Wilkins Flour mill. The geography of the steep, narrow river valley created a funnel-like effect for towns in the lower region.

Once the flood waters receded, the aftermath was evident. If you visit Ellicott City today, you will find a 'measuring pole' right here that indicates the height of flood waters.
The mill at Daniels peeks out over the debris at another trestle over the Patapsco River. According to reports, several workers were rescued from the rapidly rising flood waters by the National Guard via helicopter. They had climbed to the mill's roof!
The B&O Historical Society devoted their second quarter 2012 issue of  The Sentinel to the 40th anniversary of Agnes. The cover showed a half submerged tunnel at Point of Rocks near the Potomac River.

The sight of uplifted and eroded track along the Patapsco River was commonplace, as shown here in Sykesville. Because the track closely followed the twisting river, the raging currents continually crashed into the embankments and undercut the roadbed, creating washouts sometimes up to 50' wide.

While these type of weather-related tragedies seemed to have become almost commonplace during the last few years throughout the United States, Agnes was a significant weather anomaly  back in 1972. Readers are reminded of the photo of a submerged Daniels in the very first entry of this blog. Take another look at the sheer magnitude of the flooding, and understand that it would trigger a series of events that would ultimately lead the Old Main Line to obscurity.

On that note, we'll see everyone Friday with a special recognition, and then back to some construction next week.
Did you have a good Father's Day? Here's a belated, but heartfelt hope that everyone had a day of happy visits, loving memories, or both.


  1. Your Agnes photos brought back memories of growing up in a small town along the Susquehanna in northeastern Pennsylvania...listening to a transistor radio for weather reports, our town cut off due to high water, seeing a mobile home float down the river, and all of the debris that was left when it was all over. I really hope that is a 100 year storm.

  2. In researching Agnes, I noted photos of Wilkes-Barre, PA and Elmira, NY that rivaled those from this region... the problem with 100 year storms, based on insurance assessments for flood coverage, is that they are occurring more often than every hundred years... I believe that this storm dramatically affected the Erie Lackawanna also... best - Jim