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Title: When it Rains it Floods – Why Now?

By Steve Walsh, Director, Baltimore County Public Works

In recent years, Baltimore County has been dumped on. The rains are longer, the storms harder. The waters have caused flooded basements, instant lakes and backyard bayous. People want to know why they’re having water problems they never had before, and they want to know what the County can do about it.

The change in the rain cycle is one of many reasons for the increase in flooding. Various climate sources now document an increase in rainfall over the past 60 years across the country. In our area, the northeast, the amount of precipitation falling during intense, multi-day events increased an astounding 71 percent, say the experts. Since rainfall record-keeping started in 1873, the wettest September was in 2011 (13.32”) and the wettest June was in 2015 (13.09”). The wettest July has been this year, 2018, with 13.36” as of July 24.

But there are other factors.

Modern Environmental Regulations Don’t Protect Some Older Areas

Some of the homes now experiencing flooding problems probably wouldn’t be allowed to be built in those locations today, given current regulations designed to protect the environment and prevent homes from being flooded. Current floodplain setback requirements, environmental buffers and other protective regulations didn’t exist when many of our older, low-lying communities were built.

The development of the storm drainage system - roadside ditches, inlets, pipes and stream systems - was haphazard in some older areas of the county, often an afterthought of the homebuilders. Now, these older communities are left with little protection from increasingly significant rains.

Maintaining Drainage Systems

Baltimore County Public Works maintains and cleans 1,437 miles of storm drains, 51,000 stormwater inlets and 3,600 cross road pipes, bridges and culverts. Our current maintenance activities center on responding to complaints, keeping inlet grates and cross road culverts clean and free flowing, and unclogging pipes when necessary.

These systemic neighborhood-wide stormwater problems cannot be solved overnight. The Department of Public Works will investigate, study and design solutions, and continue discussions with communities about the level of flood protection and costs of reasonable drainage projects.

House-Related Flood Problems

A homeowner can be flooded from a nearby stream, an overwhelmed unseen piped drainage course, an overwhelmed sump pump, or from seepage through the floor or basement walls. The County cannot assist with house related problems.

As rains continue, we suggest homeowners first understand the risk of flooding for their property, and then do their best to protect it. Sometimes site grading or home basement waterproofing improvements can help.

Information can be obtained from knowledgeable experts such as basement waterproofing professionals, engineers and landscapers. Below are some more resources:

  • Find out about local flood plain locations, flood insurance and more. An Interactive Flood Mapping Application along with the instruction sheet is available online.
  • See “Protecting Your Home from Flooding – low-cost projects you can do yourself.” FEMA has lots of online resources at .
  • If there are problems with the public storm drain system in your community, contact the Baltimore County Department of Public Works (DPW) Storm Drain Design Division at 410-887-3711.

Revised October 16, 2020               
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