At the heart of the City, water of the Inner Harbor—as well as from the many tributaries that flow into the Harbor—is a central feature of Baltimore’s historic landscape. Considering how closely Baltimore has developed alongside this water, it is understandable that the City has endured a history of significant flooding events. Annualized flood occurrences in Baltimore City total approximately 2.67 flood events each year, and 1.22 flash flood events each year. Recognizing this historical information and anticipating future changes, flooding remains a major hazard for the City of Baltimore.
In Baltimore, 5.19 square miles of property (or, 6.4% of the City’s total area) currently rests within the flood zone; while 3% of Baltimore’s overall land—primarily in the Inner Harbor or the Fells Point Historic District—is within the coastal floodplain. By the end of the century, approximately 180 square miles of currently dry land along Maryland’s coastline is expected to be inundated. Coupled with more frequent and extreme precipitation events, these conditions could become a more common hazard for the City of Baltimore.
Moreover, a number of anticipated climate change impacts may intensify the extent and damage of flood events. In addition to storm surge, future sea level rise and/or land subsidence has the potential to increase flood depths, thereby intensifying losses even further.
Community Assets Susceptible to Flooding
Populations and properties are extremely vulnerable to flooding. Homes and business may suffer damage and be susceptible to collapse due to heavy flooding. In addition, floods may threaten water supplies and water quality, as well as initiate power outages.
Floodwaters can carry chemicals (there are about a half a dozen hazardous material sites and one oil refinery within Baltimore’s flood zones), sewage (four waste water facilities within flood zones), and toxins from roads, factories, and farms; therefore, any property affected by a flood may also be contaminated with hazardous materials.
Debris from vegetation and man-made structures may become additional hazardous during a flood. During flood events, objects (floating material, such as wood, cars, etc.) in rivers and streams carry the force of the water behind them, increasing the potential for damage to other structures like buildings and bridges. In permitting development, the City of Baltimore needs to take into account the need and capacity of emergency personnel to respond and provide assistance to a facility facing a flood hazard—particularly in flood hazards zones.
As a port City, Baltimore is very much dependent on its Harbor and waterways. In 2006, the Port of Baltimore generated over 50,200 jobs, $3.6 billion in personal income, $1.9 billion in business revenues, and $388 million in state/county/municipal tax. Without adequate planning and preparation, that vitality may be at risk.
The City is taking steps to prepare Baltimore for future flooding hazards, but residents and property owners should also be prepared. Be sure to browse the different pages and investigate the resources provided by this website to understand your risks, and determine how you can build your own resiliency and contribute to that of the entire City.