Torrential rain — potentially five inches on top of what has already fallen — is in the forecast for the Washington-Baltimore area through Wednesday. Heavy rain over the weekend already soaked the ground, so the risk of flash flooding is high.

Flooding like the kind we’ve seen in Ellicott City this year and in 2016 is uncommon, but it is happening more frequently. This week’s weather pattern is particularly concerning, but there’s no way to tell in advance where the heaviest rain will develop. The entire region should be prepared for flash flooding.

MaryAnn Tierney, the administrator for FEMA Region III, says flooding is the most common and costliest natural disaster in the United States, and flood insurance is really the best way to protect your home.

“Getting just one inch of water in your home could cost more than $25,000,” Tierney said. “The average flood insurance payment is more than $30,000 — nearly five times higher than the average FEMA disaster assistance payment of $6,000.”

These tips from FEMA and the Capital Weather Gang will help you and your family stay safe. We break it down into things you can do before the rain, during the flooding and after it’s all over.


  • Move valuable belongings to the upper floors of your home.
  • Clean out your home’s gutters, especially right around the downspout.
  • If your home needs a sump pump, get a battery backup in case the power goes out. Check on the pump in advance, especially if it’s more than eight years old.
  • If you have elderly or disabled neighbors, check on them (and their sump pump) and see whether their gutters need to be cleaned.
  • Flash-flood and tornado warnings are now sent directly to your phone through the Wireless Emergency Alert system. You can sign up for extra weather alerts through your favorite weather app. Weather Channel, AccuWeather and Weather Underground all provide push alerts if you turn on notifications in your phone’s settings.
  • Gather supplies in case you have to leave immediately, or if services are cut off — medications, pet supplies, batteries.
  • Purchase or renew a flood insurance policy.
  • Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.
  • Know and practice safe evacuation routes.


  • Never walk or drive into floodwater. It takes just six inches of moving water to knock you off your feet and only a foot of water to move a car.
  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • Never drive around barricades.
  • Stay off bridges over fast-moving water. Fast-moving water can wash bridges away without warning.
  • If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, then stay inside. If water is rising inside the vehicle, then seek refuge on the roof.


  • Avoid driving, except in emergencies.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • Electrocution is a significant risk — don’t touch electrical equipment that’s wet or if you’re standing in water. You may need to turn off the electricity in your home to stay safe.
  • If your home has been flooded, snakes and other critters may have gotten in. Wear boots and heavy gloves to clean up.
  • If you need to use a generator, only use it outdoors. Never run gas-powered equipment indoors.