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Keyword: flooding

Thistle Road to Reopen After Being Closed for More Than a Year

Baltimore County will reopen Thistle Road (located between Frederick Road and the Patapsco River) on Wednesday, August 21. The route, which has been partially closed for more than a year, was severely damaged by floods in May of 2018. Those same floods caused significant damage in Ellicott City and in southwestern Baltimore County. During the storm, nearly a half-mile of Thistle Road’s embankment was intermittently washed away or damaged.

The reopening this month marks the completion of major repairs, say Baltimore County engineers. Planning began almost immediately after the 2018 storm and construction commenced in March of this year with slope stabilization. Perforated, hollow tubes were inserted into the soil and filled with injections of grout. The inserts were then followed by the construction of concrete retaining walls which were backfilled with stone.

Once the road’s foundation was stabilized, the County’s contractors brought in Jersey walls to arrest erosion on the slope above the road. Once the roadway was rendered safe, Thistle Road was paved and guard rails and fencing were installed. Repairs to Thistle Road cost just under $2 million, according to engineers, who note that 75 percent of the cost will be borne by The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

While the restored road is the most dramatic repair on Thistle Road, it’s not the only post-storm improvement in the area. Immediately after the May 2018 floods, the Baltimore County Department of Public Works repaired a small bridge just north of the stabilization project completed this month. Additionally, engineers will soon repair a culvert on Thistle Road about a half-mile south of Frederick Road. The County is currently rebuilding the River Road Bridge, south of Thistle, which was completely destroyed by flood waters. Reconstruction of the 40-foot long bridge began in July and is expected to be finished before the end of the year.

By Steve Walsh, Director, Baltimore County Public Works

In recent years, Baltimore County has been dumped on. The rains are longer, the storms harder. The waters have caused flooded basements, instant lakes and backyard bayous. People want to know why they’re having water problems they never had before, and they want to know what the County can do about it.

The change in the rain cycle is one of many reasons for the increase in flooding. Various climate sources now document an increase in rainfall over the past 60 years across the country. In our area, the northeast, the amount of precipitation falling during intense, multi-day events increased an astounding 71 percent, say the experts. Since rainfall record-keeping started in 1873, the wettest September was in 2011 (13.32”) and the wettest June was in 2015 (13.09”). The wettest July has been this year, 2018, with 13.36” as of July 24.

But there are other factors.

Modern Environmental Regulations Don’t Protect Some Older Areas

Some of the homes now experiencing flooding problems probably wouldn’t be allowed to be built in those locations today, given current regulations designed to protect the environment and prevent homes from being flooded. Current floodplain setback requirements, environmental buffers and other protective regulations didn’t exist when many of our older, low-lying communities were built.

The development of the storm drainage system - roadside ditches, inlets, pipes and stream systems - was haphazard in some older areas of the county, often an afterthought of the homebuilders. Now, these older communities are left with little protection from increasingly significant rains.

Maintaining Drainage Systems

Baltimore County Public Works maintains and cleans 1,437 miles of storm drains, 51,000 stormwater inlets and 3,600 cross road pipes, bridges and culverts. Our current maintenance activities center on responding to complaints, keeping inlet grates and cross road culverts clean and free flowing, and unclogging pipes when necessary.

These systemic neighborhood-wide stormwater problems cannot be solved overnight. The Department of Public Works will investigate, study and design solutions, and continue discussions with communities about the level of flood protection and costs of reasonable drainage projects.

House-Related Flood Problems

A homeowner can be flooded from a nearby stream, an overwhelmed unseen piped drainage course, an overwhelmed sump pump, or from seepage through the floor or basement walls. The County cannot assist with house related problems.

As rains continue, we suggest homeowners first understand the risk of flooding for their property, and then do their best to protect it. Sometimes site grading or home basement waterproofing improvements can help.

Information can be obtained from knowledgeable experts such as basement waterproofing professionals, engineers and landscapers. Below are some more resources:

  • Find out about local flood plain locations, flood insurance and more. An Interactive Flood Mapping Application along with the instruction sheet is available online.
  • See “Protecting Your Home from Flooding – low-cost projects you can do yourself.” FEMA has lots of online resources at .
  • If there are problems with the public storm drain system in your community, contact the Baltimore County Department of Public Works (DPW) Storm Drain Design Division at 410-887-3711.

Residents and Businesses Encouraged to Plan and Follow County Updates Online

Baltimore County’s public safety and health officials conducted a hurricane preparedness exercise this morning in the Emergency Operations Center and outlined the County’s emergency preparedness, reminding residents and businesses to plan ahead in case of severe storms and flooding. Today’s exercise asked emergency operations representatives from County agencies and partner organizations to respond to a hypothetical hurricane similar to Isabel, which caused severe flooding in coastal Baltimore County in September of 2003.

During the exercise, Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler and the County’s top emergency management, public works and health leadership team outlined the County’s year-round storm preparations and recommendations for residents.

Preparation is Key

County officials encouraged people to have an emergency plan, prepare to get through three days without power, and stock up on water, non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries and back-up power sources for their cellphones. They suggested that residents check to see if they need flood insurance and to prepare in advance for medical and prescription needs and for pet care. More information about storm preparedness can be found on the County website at

“We work to ensure that our first responders have the best equipment and training available and practice our coordinated response protocols multiple times each year,” said Mohler. “We are prepared and now is the time for residents and businesses to take some time to make sure they are prepared as well.”

Real-time storm updates available on the County’s website and social media platforms

Mohler reminded residents to follow the County’s Emergency Management Twitter feed, @BACOemergency, for storm warnings and updates on storm response, sheltering operations and more. “The recent extreme flooding in Ellicott City and Catonsville was an important wake-up call to all of us that these severe storms can pop up at any time and we all need to stay alert and be prepared to respond quickly,” he said.

“Flash flooding is particularly dangerous and we do have areas all around the County that are susceptible to coastal and inland flooding, and it is very important for people to keep up with storm forecasts and connect online with our County emergency managers for storm response updates,” said County Council Chair Julian Jones.

The County’s Stormfighter web page allows people to self-report storm-related issues. The system integrates with the County’s GIS mapping technology and provides real-time visual data to assist DPW and emergency managers in responding to severe storms or other localized or regional emergencies. Stormfighter provides a link to live traffic camera feeds from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). It also offers a link to the County’s list of road closures, which lists County roads that are currently closed due to repairs, accidents, weather or other hazards. State roads and interstates are not included. Information on State roads can be found on the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at   

Revised September 11, 2017