After confusion, ‘Historic Ellicott City’ flood alert protocol almost ready

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After Monday’s confusion, when emergency sirens didn’t sound in Howard County, Maryland’s historic Ellicott City during flash flood warnings from the National Weather Service, a new protocol is days from implementation, WTOP has learned.

While Monday’s flash flood warning from the weather service mentioned the “western edge of Ellicott City,” the most flood-prone part of the city, along Main Street, wasn’t covered by the warning, which is why the sirens didn’t sound.

A new designation — “Historic Ellicott City” — will soon be implemented by the weather service, which will trigger the siren alert in the part of the tourist destination that was devastated by floods in 2016 and 2018.

“Ellicott City encompasses a much larger area than historic Ellicott City,” said Mike Hinson, acting director of Howard County’s Office of Emergency Management. After Monday, in which some residents and business owners on lower Main Street were confused and anxious about the lack sirens, unaware the NWS alert wasn’t intended for them.

Friday, Hinson told WTOP the county had suggested calling the new alert area “Historic Ellicott City,” and Saturday, Jason Elliott, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service said the agency “will use the name they submitted.”

Elliott said the NWS is updating its computer files, and hopes the new “Historic Ellicott City” designation will be ready in the next week or so.

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