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Updating Precipitation Forecasts for Flooding Events

Frederick, Maryland

Featured image for the project, Updating Precipitation Forecasts for Flooding Events

Image courtesy of Frederick County Office of Economic Development


Frederick (City), Maryland is part of the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area. Frederick has long been an important crossroads, located at the intersection of a major north–south Indian trail and east–west routes to the Chesapeake Bay, both at Baltimore and what became Washington, D.C. and across the Appalachian mountains to the Ohio River watershed (Overview History of Frederick). Today, Frederick is the second largest city in the state, and the fastest growing area in the region. The population is expected to grow from 65,239 to 76,625 people by 2023, a 17% increase since the 2010 census.

Climate change — in particular precipitation frequency and  intensity — is also impacting Frederick. Scientists predict wetter weather from more intense and frequent storms and an increase in flooding events. The change in climate coupled with increasing population puts more people, more infrastructure and services at risk in this region.

Precipitation models — often based on 20-year-old or older data (NOAA Atlas 14, Volume 2) — are no longer accurate as evidenced by the recent storms. Property owners within the City of Frederick have recently experienced substantial flooding during larger storm events. In May 2018 stormwater infrastructure was overwhelmed resulting in significant damages. Much of the development within the areas of the City that were flooded occurred prior to the enactment of modern stormwater management regulations. In addition, runoff generated from impervious surfaces during intense storm events has the potential to overwhelm existing infrastructure causing flooding resulting in loss of property and potentially, injury or loss of life. The city government and members of the public are keen to increase flood resiliency. This effort will require updated precipitation data  and a strategy for information exchange to aid decision-making and flood management.

The Project

As climate scientists project an increase in frequency and intensity of flooding events in Maryland due to climate change, government officials, city staff, homeowners, businesses and members of the public seek updated precipitation forecasts and predictions tools for different precipitation scenarios. Beyond the data, “digestible” information about climate, storm predictions, flooding, and flood resilience will help the public make informed decisions, navigate precipitation events and recover more quickly when flooding occurs.

The Frederick City and County staff identified its priority for this Thriving Earth Exchange as updated precipitation forecasts/models/maps and other prediction tools for flooding events. A future The plan is to use this information in conjunction with USACE deliverables for a more comprehensive understanding of flooding events:

  • to inform government officials and municipal decision-makers about flood risk and local vulnerability
  • to educate members of the public on climate change and local precipitation scenarios
  • to help the public assess their own flood risk vulnerability to flooding
  • to encourage the public to better prepare for flooding events


With updated data, precipitation forecasts and flood models in hand, the City can both tackle bigger infrastructure projects and plan strategies plus implementation for flood resiliency at a smaller scale.


Project Outputs:

  • Updated precipitation tools, forecasts or models for Frederick City, MD
  • Updated maps regarding urban flood risk (e.g., flooding risk outside existing FEMA mapped riverine flood zones). NOTE: some municipalities are moving to 500-year storm maps for planning, see org

Project Team

Community Leads

Jennifer Williams is a Project Engineer for Stormwater Management with the City of Frederick. She will serve as the main point of contact for the project on behalf of the City.  While this project is focused on the City of Frederick, it will potentially serve as a model for other municipalities in Frederick County.

Rebekah May is an Emergency Management Planner with Frederick County. She will serve as the main point of contact for the project on behalf of the County.


Community Scientist

Franco Montalto directs the Sustainable Water Resource Engineering Laboratory in Drexel’s College of Engineering and he also serves as the director for the Northeast hub of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. He is an civil/environmental engineer and hydrologist with a background in applied and theoretical approaches to solving complex environmental problems. His research focuses on the development of ecologically, economically and socially sensible solutions to urban environmental problems with a focus on sustainable water resource engineering.

He has more than 20 years of experience in eco-hydrological research, planning and design projects. Some of them include the restoration of wetlands, the use of constructed wetlands for wastewater and stormwater treatment, construction of green infrastructure and creating low-impact development technologies.

Community Science Fellow

Shelly Strom studied science communication and landscape architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has lived in Madison for most of her life. She has also lived in Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, New Zealand and France. Her lifelong goal is to foster connections of people, place, knowledge and wisdom. She is an observer by nature and passionate about trees and bumblebees.


Collaborating Organization(s)