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In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning

Storms supercharged by climate change pose a dire threat to river towns. After two catastrophic floods, tiny Ellicott City faces a critical decision: Rebuild, or retreat?
In 2016, Ellicott City, Maryland, was hit with a "1,000-Year Storm." Less than two years later, it happened again.
In 2016, Ellicott City, Maryland, was hit with a "1,000-Year Storm." Less than two years later, it happened again.Alicia Tatone

ELLICOTT CITY, Md.—The floor beneath Sally Tennant’s feet was thumping, as if it had a heartbeat—an irregular one, with each thud getting louder and more violent. When she looked out the window of her store, she discovered why: A river of muddy water was gushing down the street, and it was sending tree branches, rocks, pieces of fencing—anything the water swept up—crashing into the side of the building.

It’s happening again.