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40 Years After Agnes: Where Were You?

Tropical Storm Agnes, its destructive power and its aftermath.

 

Forty years ago, Tropical Storm Agnes ripped homes from their foundations and trees from their roots. It swept away cars, trains and even bridges.

A mill in Ilchester was so devastated, “It looked like it had been bombed,” said Robert Miller. “It was the worst sight I’d ever seen.”

Miller spoke at the Patapsco Valley Heritage Greenway’s annual meeting, in which four presenters remembered about Tropical Storm Agnes. Miller is an avid videographer, and shared video of the storm’s immediate aftermath around Howard County. 

Agnes hit Elkridge in late June, leading to 19 deaths state-wide and about $110.2 million dollars in damage in 1972 currency.

The resulting flooding was more extreme than a 100-year flood—a flood with a 1 percent statistical chance of occurring on any given year, according to Andrew J. Miller, associate professor at the University of Maryland. It was more like a 135-year flood, he said, and it dropped more than a foot of rain around the area.

Transportation expert John Teichmoeller shared a story about the railroads, and a crew stuck on the roof of a caboose for a day as they watched the waters rise around them.

“’We see trees and branches coming by fast,’” Teichmoeller quoted from their account. “'Then come the snakes.’”

The men were ultimately rescued by helicopter after members of the W. Friendship Volunteer Fire Department were unable to reach them by land—or, as it had become, sea.

Despite the destruction, Enalee Bounds said that the floods left her amazed.  Before Agnes, Ellicott City had been preparing for its bicentennial celebration; the town was founded in 1772. In just a few short weeks, Bounds said, the town was ready for a party.

“It’s amazing what people can do when they all get together and work together.”

A woman in the audience who had also been in Ellicott City during the flood echoed Bounds. The clean-up effort was impressive, she said.

“It was nothing but a miracle that allowed that place to get cleaned up in time for the big (bi)centennial party,” she said.  “Everything looked beautiful. If you didn’t look closely.”

Do you have photos or memories of Hurricane Agnes? Tell us in the comments below or email elizabeth.janney@patch.com.

Kimberly Shugars June 21, 2012 at 11:36 PM
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was eleven and at my grandfathers house in the silver creek area off of Milford MIll Rd. My grandmother had just passed away a few weeks before this and my aunt and cousins were in Maryland from Florida. It had rained all day and toward evening we lost power, not really thinking anything of it we lit lanterns and passed the time. Then water started coming in the doors. We looked out and there was at least 2 feet of water everywhere. Eventually we had to open the doors because the house started to lift off the foundation. Unbelieveably we still had phone service and my grandfather called my uncle who came down to get us. Only by that time the water was at least 7 ft deep and we were on the second floor of the house with water steadily rising up the stairs. Local firefighters and my uncle who would not take no for an answer took someones boat out of their yard and came to get us. They had to remove us from the second floor window, taking us 4 kids first and then going back for my grandfather and aunt. Yea, I won't ever forget that.
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