40 Years Ago, Patapsco Devastated By Agnes Flood
Newspaper accounts of the time state that the hurricane devastated the state park.
Forty years ago on June 23, flooding from Hurricane Agnes hit the Patapsco River Valley area, devastating the state park, wiping out old mill towns and severely flooding Ellicott City and Oella.
The flooding was first reported in the early morning hours of June 23 and water was reported as high as 40 feet, according to an article in the Catonsville Times on May 21, 1973.
The park area from Ilchester to Elkridge was was closed indefinitely. River Road was completely washed out.
The flood changed the course of the river, several newspaper articles stated, around where Lost Lake is. The original swinging bridge over the river was destroyed.
An article in the Catonsville Times from July 20, 1972 said that the flood caused roughly $1.8 million in damages to Patapsco State Park. An article from May 23, 1973, stated that damages to the Orange Grove and Avalon section of the park exceeded $8 million total.
According to an article from the Howard County Times, more than 900 people were evacuated from their homes. The National Guard helicopters were called in to rescue two workmen from the roof of the Daniels plant.
In Elkridge, a family of six was forced from its home and they attempted to reach high ground in a small boat. It capsized and all six held onto the boat for several hours until it reached shallower water, according to the article.
In Howard County, a total of 704 county residents were left homeless. More than 80 homes in the Ellicott City area were damaged and in Elkridge 72 homes were affected.
A total of seven people died and another died in the flooding at the South Entrance to Columbia, according to the Howard County Times.
Then park superintendent Charles Jackson recalled that time period roughly a year later in an interview. It would be several years before some areas of the park were open again.
"Sandy loam fills the area between Lost Lake which is really lost now, and the new river bank."
Patch readers recalled the storm on the Catonsville Patch Facebook page. Fran Shaw wrote, "I remember driving out to see the damage in Ellicott City and only being able to drive halfway down the hill into town. The river took up the rest of it."
Kathleen Dunworth Geil wrote, "We lived in Woodstock MD at the time. The bridge between Woodstock and Granite was washed away along with the hill supporting the railroad tracks, which caused travel issues for years. In Old Ellicott City, the water went all the way up to the door of Leidig's Bakery's."
Patch would like to thank Catonsville Library employee Bryce Rumbles and volunteer Lisa Vicari for their help in finding information.
Do you have memories of Hurricane Agnes? Tell us in the comments below.