Sykesville Area Starts Flood Cleanup

June 29, 1972

By Kathryn Roberts

Residents of Sykesville and surrounding communities began this work to clear away debris and evaluate the damage left in teh wake of Hurricane Agnes, the tropical storm that raged across several eastern states.

The unrelenting, torrential rainfall accompanying the storm caused flooding termed the worst since the infamous Johnstown flood of 1880. Barricades proclaiming “Bridge Out” or “Road Closed” are familiar sights and along highways, huge gaping holes at the mouths of storm drains remain as evidence that Agnes passed this way. Hardest hit in this area was the community of Marriottsville. Families there report that flood water reached as high as the second floor of their homes.

William Tignor, a resident of Marriottsville for the past 14 years, said he lost nearly everything in the flood. Pointing to warped paneling and drooping ceilings he said, it would all have to be replaced and he is not even confident his house is worth saving.

“When the water is strong enough to tear off two porches you can’t help but wonder what it’s done to the foundation,” he said. Tignor estimates his loss to be between $15,000 and $20,000. Insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding.

Mr. and Mrs. James Rogers, other long time residents of Marriottsville, estimate their loss to be at least $20,000. Just prior to being interviewed, Rogers tore down the ceiling in one of the rooms of his house because the water logged material was threatening to fall. in spite of the fact that all the electrical wiring will have to be replaced and the walls replastered throughout, the Rogers’ are confident that their home can be saved.

One of the most appalling things the flood victims had to face was the huge amount of mud and silt deposited on the floors of their homes after the water receded. Mr. Tignor said he had 16 inches of mud to shovel out before he could even begin to clean.

Across the road from the Tignors’ and the Rogers’ is an antique store and the Post Office. Both were completely devastated by raging waters and are now boarded up to keep out looters.The antique shop is out of business and the fate of the Post Office awaits thedecision of a postal inspector.

Eight school buses that were parked near the Patapsco River in Marriottsville were completely covered by muddy water but have since been repaired and are again in working condition. A 100 year old stone shed belonging to mrs. barbara Gates and used to store snow tires for the buses was swept away and $2,000 worth of tires were lost.

A couple of miles north beyond the flooded houses in Marriottsville, an estimated half mile of the Marriottsville Road was washed away. Little Piney Run, the smaller of the two rivers that flow through Marriottsville, overflowed its banks and with all the ferocity of a rapids the normally peaceful little river tore up and tossed like pebbles huge 11 inch thick slabs of the asphalt road.

Harry Bopat, who has lived in Marriottsville all his life, has never seen anything like it before.

“About 1926 or ’27 the road washed out too,” he said, “But it was just a dirt road in those days and the wash-out wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now.”

He went on to say that the old road used to be where the river is now. like history repeating itself, the river has again pushed to the east and in one spot is flowing down a path where the road once was. Mr. Bopat said he believes it ill be at least to years before Marriottsville is back to normal. One observer who came to see the damage remarked, “It looks like a bomb was dropped.” Another woman from a near by housing development said that when she and some of her neighbors heard about the extensive damage to the road they drove down to look at it.

“The thing I remember most vividly is how everyone was stunned into silence. It was beyond anything we could have imagined,” she said. Surprisingly, the two bridges at Marriottsville held up under the battering of water and the tons of debris and timber. According to George Ways, the bridges were condemned by State officials a good three weeks before the flood.

“They told me we would be getting a new bridge within a year,” Ways said. “Looks like we’ll be getting a new road to go with it.”

The Sykesville bridge did not fare up well. By morning it lay in a heap several feet down stream, barely recognizable. According to a 50th anniversary issue of the HERALD, the old bridge was built in 1884 by the Canton Bridge Company. It was the only direct route between the business district in Sykesville and the Howard County side of the Patapsco River. Mayor Manner said the bridge was State maintained and he is hopeful that the State will replace it in the near future.

Mayor Manner also said he has not received word to date of any damage more serious than flooded basements in downtown Sykesville. “I really don’t believe the merchants had any more damage than they did last spring during that flood,” he said.

The two clubs, The Sykesville Inn and Patapsco Inn, on the Howard County side of the river both suffered heavy losses from the flood. Officials of the Health Department closed the bars saying that all the soda and beer in pop-top cans along with the bonded liquor that was covered by flood waters is contaminated.

Jimmy East, owner of the Patapsco Inn,s aid he has 1200 cases of pop-top cans that he must dispose of, plus the river washed out a storage room wall in the rear and $1,500 to $2,000 worth of liquor was carried down stream. Another $1,000 worth of spirits still on the shelves has been condemned by Health officials. Mr. East estimates his total loss at $20,000, but added determinedly,

“I’ll be reopened in three weeks if Sandosky can remodel the place that fast.”

Other reports of storm damage came from Henryton Hospital where the boiler room equipment was completely inundated and the crew of men inside had to scramble to safety atop the roof of the powerhouse. Besides the crew inside the boiler room, a hospital employee leaving at the end of a shift was stranded in his car and had to seek safety on the roof of the powerhouse along with the other men.

There were rumors that three loaded box cars belonging to the Congolain xxx Company of Finksburg washed into the river and one box car ended up nose down in the Liberty Reservoir. State Police said they heard a similar rumor but didn’t have facts to confirm it. There was also a rumor that flood waters picked up and carried away 50 bushels of live crabs from an Inn in Woodbine.

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