Flash flooding rages through Maryland community

Damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Rescue personnel examine damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Rescue personnel examine damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Rescue personnel examine damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Rescue personnel examine damage on Main Street after a flash flood rushed through the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A SOS flag hanging from a building during flash flooding in the Main Street of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
A SOS flag hanging from a building during flash flooding in the Main Street of Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS
Flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018.
Flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS
Flooding is seen in Ellicott City, Maryland, on May 27, 2018.
Flooding is seen in Ellicott City, Maryland, on May 27, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND (NYTIMES) - Flash floods on Sunday (May 27) raged through the downtown of a Maryland community that was devastated by flooding nearly two years ago, prompting residents to seek shelter in upper floors and authorities to dispatch swift-water rescue teams, officials said.

The community, Ellicott City, about 24km west of Baltimore, experienced floodwaters 1.8m deep in some places, according to witnesses. There was no immediate word of injuries.

Howard County fire and emergency medical services said on Twitter that rescue swimmers were being called in and that swift-water units were coming from as far away as Northern Virginia.

"If you are trapped, we are coming," it said.

Photos and video from the downtown area showed a white flag with "SOS" on it hanging out a window, piles of debris and at least one car that was mangled in the flooding.

Mr Max Robinson, who lives on Main Street in the community, said on Twitter that the water reached above 1.8m in spots.

A local business, Tea on the Tiber, posted on Facebook that it had 30 people trapped.

"Send help," it said.

Rescuers later confirmed on Twitter that everyone had safely evacuated the building.

Mr Mark Miller, a spokesman for the county, said the episode equalled or perhaps exceeded the July 2016 flooding in which two people died after more than 15.2cm of rain fell in two hours.

That flooding ripped up sidewalks, gutted many of the town's quaint shops and carried off vehicles, depositing some of them blocks away.

Mr Miller said Sunday's rain started around 2.45pm and had not yet subsided as of around 6.30pm.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning until 10.30pm and said a third wave of significant water was imminent.

The flooding in 2016 caused catastrophic damage, but 96 per cent of the businesses downtown rebuilt and reopened.

To see the damage on Sunday was "heartbreaking and devastating", Mr Miller said.

Mr Miller, who lives 4.8km from Ellicott City, said he had 15.2cm of water in his basement, something that had not happened in the more than 25 years he has lived in the house.

"We had a very, very heavy cell move over us, and it just unloaded and did not let up," he said.

Founded in 1772 as a mill town, Ellicott City has for the past several decades catered to tourists with its historic charm and antique shops.

Its location in the Patapsco River Valley and its position on a granite bedrock make it susceptible to flooding "with terrific force", Mr Miller said.