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Howard County Executive Kittleman announces partnership to improve flood warning systems for Ellicott City

Howard County Executive Kittleman announces partnership to improve flood warning systems for Ellicott City

May 21, 2018    

Media Contact: 
Mark Miller, Administrator, Office of Public Information, 410-313-2022

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman today announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Weather Service (NWS) to improve flood warning systems for Ellicott City. 

The first step in this effort will be the installation of 48 advanced stream gauges at 16 locations throughout the approximately four-square mile Tiber-Hudson watershed. The installation will begin next month, and the gauges will remain in place for at least six months to one year. 

“We have heard from experts that it is extremely difficult to predict how a variety of weather conditions will impact Ellicott City,” said Kittleman. “Through this new partnership with DHS and NWS, we are field-testing these gauges to collect valuable data that will help us close this information gap and contribute to the development of a better flood warning system for the residents, businesses and property owners in the watershed.”

“Howard County is an important community partner and pilot location for testing new technologies such as low cost flood sensors. It affords us an opportunity to improve local flood response and strengthen community resilience applying new technologies,” said Dr. David Alexander, DHS, Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Flood Apex Program Director.  “The lessons learned from the Ellicott City technology pilot will be invaluable to S&T’s research and development role in support of FEMA allowing us to better protect communities nationwide.”

Data collected from these additional 48 gauges will be correlated to weather events. By better understanding how these events impact the watershed, efforts can be made to strengthen disaster preparedness and community resilience in Ellicott City.

"In a small river basin like the one Ellicott City is within, water levels rise and fall very quickly. Installing gauges to instantly measure all the rivers that feed storm water through Ellicott City is a necessary next step toward improving the flood warning system and reducing the risk for this community,” said James E. Lee, Meteorologist-in-Charge, Baltimore/Washington Weather Forecast Office, NWS. “The strong partnership between Howard County's Office of Emergency Management and the National Weather Service's Baltimore/Washington Weather Forecast Office constantly works toward improving warnings for the community." 

After the initial data collection, the County will look to distribute the gauges more widely throughout Howard County so that the impact of potentially hazardous weather approaching Ellicott City can also be studied. 

“We know forecasting the weather for such a small geographic area like Ellicott City isn’t an exact science, but the more data we can get, the better equipped we’ll be too improve our warning systems,” said Ron Peters, a property owner on historic Main Street.  “I appreciate all the county has done so far and look forward to the results of this latest initiative.”

This partnership is the newest in a series of projects the County has undertaken to make Ellicott City a model resilient community. During high-intensity rain storms, these projects will better contain water in higher parts of the watershed and improve the conveyance of water through the town by reducing bottlenecks and pinch points.

Key projects include:

  • Hudson Branch Stormwater Retention Facility at US 29/40 Interchange -- Currently under design to provide 13 acre-feet of retention. Construction funds have already been secured.
  • Hudson Branch Stormwater Retention Facility at Rogers Avenue and Patapsco River Road -- Currently under design to provide 10 acre-feet of retention. Construction funds have already been secured.
  • Culvert expansion at 8600 Main Street -- Currently under design with construction funds already secured. 
  • Tiber Branch Stormwater Retention Facility -- Currently under design to provide 70 acre-feet of retention. Funding options for construction are being explored.
  • Upgrading storm drains on Emory and Church Streets, and on Old Columbia Pike -- Currently under design. Partial construction dollars already secured.

As a result of a recommendation in the Historic Ellicott City Flood Workgroup Report in 2015, a non-structural floodproofing study was conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This study was the foundation for Kittleman’s commitment of funds in his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 Operating Budget to incentivize floodproofing in Ellicott City and Valley Mede. These funds will support individuals with the capital expenses of floodproofing their homes and businesses.

In addition to these projects, a more comprehensive list of county flood mitigation initiatives can be found at:×tamp=1526483990288.