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Howard County sounded alert sirens for first time during Monday's storms

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Posted at 3:15 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 15:19:38-04

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Since the first time they were installed in May of 2019, flash flood alert sirens sounded off in Old Town Ellicott City on Monday.

The sirens are part of Howard County's Safe and Sound plan which was implemented following two straight years of devastating floods.

Another part of the plan that went into action Monday, was the stream debris removal program, which requires the county's waterways to be inspected on a regular basis to dispose of debris that help cause flooding during severe weather.

More than 10 tons of debris have been removed from county waterways, since the program's inception.

On Monday, the county's rain gauge at the Centennial Dam recorded 2.2 inches of rain over the course of an hour while Ellicott City recorded 1.85 inches over the same time period.

Those numbers caused the alert tone, warning residents to seek higher ground.

Thankfully the town escaped another major flood, but 931 county residents are still experiencing power outages. Some even had fallen trees damage their property.

“Last night’s storms brought intense rainfall and wind, setting off the outdoor tone alert system and triggering our teams this morning to remove any debris to keep our streams clear,” said Ball. “The tone alert system is intended to warn pedestrians and others outdoors in Ellicott City to seek higher ground in the case of flash flooding. The debris removal taking place this morning will prevent debris from collecting and causing stream blockages for future storms. We’re thankful for our EcoWorks team, who are still able to complete these inspections while taking extra precautions for COVID-19.”

Now inspectors will have to look over 56 points along 9 county waterways within 3 business days, to see how much debris the storm left.

The inspection is required anytime there is more than two-inches of rainfall in a 24 hour period or an hour of sustained 30 mph winds. County workers then have 14 days to remove the debris.