ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – Historic, low-lying Ellicott City was ravaged by floodwaters Saturday night, killing at least one person and causing devastating damage to businesses, officials in Maryland said.

Andy Barth, a spokesman for Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, told The Associated Press that two other people were missing after the town received more than 6 inches of rain, most of it between 7 and 9 p.m.

The body of a woman was recovered from the Patapsco River early Sunday, Kittleman told WBAL-AM.

Gov. Larry Hogan was touring the damage Sunday and declared a state of emergency, which will allow greater aid coordination and assistance.

Videos posted on social media showed floodwaters rushing down the town’s Main Street, which slopes toward the river, and sweeping away cars. Some vehicles came to rest on top of each other. Kittleman said the devastation was the worst he’d seen in 50 years living in the county, including Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which caused the river to overflow its banks.

“This is by far the worst devastation Ellicott City has seen in decades,” Kittleman told WBAL-AM.

Barth said all of the businesses along Main Street sustained extensive damage.

“In almost every case catastrophic, just gutted,” he said. “Everything in it has been swept out. All of the glass is broken, many of the sidewalks are out. It’s hard to believe.”

Barth said bystanders helped rescue some motorists who were at risk of being swept away while inside their cars, forming a human chain in at least one instance.

Jason Elliott, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia, said the town was hit by a series of strong thunderstorms that dumped heavy rain over a 2-hour period. Other areas nearby received heavy rainfall for only about 30 to 45 minutes, he said.

“It’s just a matter of the heavy rain being that long in duration. It just happened to set up over that area,” Elliott said.

With so much rainfall, there was nowhere for it to go other than the street.

“Everything funneled toward that Main Street area. There’s hills on both sides, the river’s on the third side,” Elliott said. “In this case the Patapsco River was coming up, too. We believe there’s some contributions to the flood from both directions.”

Ellicott City was established in 1772 as a mill town along the Patapsco, and many 18th and 19th-century buildings were still intact before Saturday’s floods. Once a home to mill workers, in recent decades it has become known for restaurants, art galleries, antique shops and nightlife. Main Street slopes dramatically toward the river and has long been susceptible to flooding.

The county courthouse and government headquarters are in Ellicott City but are on higher ground.