Flooding is a temporary overflow of water onto land that is normally dry. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. A flood can develop slowly, over a period of several days, or within minutes during flash floods. When there's a flood risk, the National Weather Service issues alerts in several different categories:
Flash Flood Watch: flash flooding is possible
Flash Flood Warning: flash flooding is happening or is about to happen
Coastal Flood Watch: moderate to major coastal flooding is possible
Coastal Flood Warning: moderate to major coastal flooding is happening or is about to happen
Sign up for AlertDC to receive emergency alerts about weather impact the District.
Prepare Your Neighborhood and Home for Family
Learn ways to prepare your home and neighborhood before a flood.
Understood Your Flood Risk
The climate and topography of the District make flooding more likely to happen. In addition, certain parts of the city are more likely to flood due to their elevation and proximity to streams, rivers, and other permanent water elements. Learn about your flood risk with our interactive tool: What’s your risk?
Additional flood risk information can be found at:
Insure and Clean Your Property and Street
Floods are the most common and costly natural disaster, so it’s important to have the right coverage. Homeowners and renter’s insurance usually don’t cover flood damage, so it may be smart to purchase flood insurance. It can take up to 30 days to take effect, so now’s the time to buy.
- Protect your home or business with flood insurance. Call 1-800-427-4661 to find an agent.
- Are you a renter? Protect your belongings with contents coverage.
- Remove debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Clear debris from catch basins. Report clogged catch basins to 311. Help us keep leaves out of catch basins!
- Prune trees and shrubs.
- Bring outdoor furniture and decorations inside.
- Secure or bring garbage bins inside.
- Move possessions to your highest floor.
- Photograph your property for insurance purposes.
Build to Avoid Flood Damage
- If building a new home or renovating your current property, consider elevating your home.
- Install green infrastructure, like a rain garden, to slow down and absorb rainwater. Check out the RiverSmart program to receive a rebate.
- Elevate air conditioning units and utilities.
- Dry-proof commercial building to the base flood elevation with wall coatings. Contact the District’s Hazard Mitigation Office to learn more about mitigation options.
Before a Flood
- Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
- Bring in outdoor furniture and move important indoor items to the highest possible floor.
- Be aware of creeks and other low-lying areas around your neighborhood prone to sudden flooding.
- If needed, place sandbags in front of your exteriors doors to prevent water from entering your home.
- If instructed, turn off your gas and electricity at the main switch or valve. This helps prevent fires and explosions.
- Store drinking water in various containers and clean bathtubs as water service may be interrupted.
- Be prepared to evacuate if necessary. Be familiar with your evacuation routes around your neighborhood.
- Fill up your car with gas. If electric power is cut off, gas stations may not be able to operate pumps for several days.
- Please refer to the District Department of Energy & Environment guidance for flooding/flood zone information.
During a Flood
Learn how you and your family can stay safe during a flood.
Avoid flood waters
- Move to higher ground.
- NEVER walk or drive through flood waters. Just six inches of flowing water can be enough to knock you off your feet or carry your car away.
- If water rises around your car, abandon the car immediately.
- TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN!
Avoid Contact with Electricity
- Don’t touch electrical equipment. Every source of electricity can be dangerous during or after a flood.
- Treat all downed wires as if they are live and report them to Pepco at 1-877-737-2662
- Call 911 to report street flooding and life-threatening emergencies.
After a Flood
Learn how you and your family can be safe after a flood.
- Don't return home until District officials indicate it is safe to do so.
- Communicate with family members and friends. Access the Red Cross online registry website, Safe and Well, to give your family members and friends a way to check on your status.
- Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded and watch out for debris. Floodwaters can erode roads and walkways.
- Stay away from standing water. It might be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.
- Check in on your neighbors and see if they need assistance.
Protect the floodplain
- Learn more about new building codes.
- Take part in programs to promote resilience and protect the District.