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Current & Potential Hazards

Coastal Events

Coastal events include Hurricane, Nor'easter, Coastal Flooding, Sea Level Rise, and Shoreline Erosion. With 60% of the County located within the tidal floodplain and over 50% of the land laying below the elevation of 4.9 feet above sea level, Dorchester County is highly susceptible to all coastal events. or connect to a database. Coastal events include hurricanes, Nor'easter, coastal flooding, sea level rise, and shoreline erosion.

Riverine Flooding

Dorchester County is prone to riverine flooding from 16 major waterbodies. Of the nine municipalities, six are located within close proximity to the floodplains of certain waterbodies. These include Cambridge and Secretary next to the Choptank River, Eldorado and Brookview near Marshyhope Creek and Galestown and Vienna next to the Nanticoke River.


A drought is essentially a deficiency of precipitation over a period of time resulting from a weather pattern that brings no moisture into an area. Dorchester County normally receives 40-44 inches of precipitation per year, about average for the state. However, that does not mean the County is immune to drought. Water supply can be affected, particularly where groundwater is relied on to supply community systems, as is the case in Dorchester County.


Under the right temperature and moisture conditions, intense thunderstorms can produce tornadoes in areas of differential heating such as occurs on the Eastern Shore. According to the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) data, since 1984, Dorchester County has experienced (11) eleven tornado events.


Dorchester County is affected primarily by thunderstorm activity through the interaction of warm and cool air masses along frontal systems. Thunderstorms are more common in the spring when frontal zones are passing over the County from west to east and during the summer months when warm, moist air is lifted over the eastern shore by differential heating of the land and surrounding water.

High Wind

High and strong wind events can also occur in the County without the presence of thunderstorms. There are several reasons as to how wind can occur without the presence of thunderstorms, such as low pressure systems, cold fronts, remnants of hurricanes, and other meteorological causes. High wind events as characterized by the Nation Weather Service are winds that are over 50 knots (57.5 mph) and strong wind events are less than 50 knots.


A wildfire is defined as any large fire that spreads rapidly and is difficult to extinguish. Since more than 40% of Dorchester County’s land surface is covered by forests, and another 25% is covered with wetland species, wildfire is a major concern.

Winter Weather

The typical winter storm in Maryland usually brings heavy snowfall (6+ inches), sleet or freezing rain accompanied by cold temperatures and occasionally high winds. Dorchester County averages 13 inches of snowfall annually, according to the National Weather Service.  

Major Fire & Explosion

Fire/explosion refers to a major incident involving a commercial/industrial or transportation fire or explosion. Dorchester County is at risk due to the clustering of commercial and industrial structures in the Cambridge and Hurlock communities.  Additionally, all municipalities share the threat of fire to residential, commercial or other structures.  The municipalities of Cambridge and Vienna have the possibility of fire/explosion transportation related incidents due to their location along Route 50.

Extreme Heat

According to the National Weather Service, when temperature and humidity together exceed certain levels (85 F and 100% humidity, 90 F and 70% humidity, or 110 F and 30% humidity) heatstroke is likely if exposure continues for many hours.  Dorchester County normally averages close to the same temperature and humidity during the summer months as Baltimore and Washington DC. However, along the coast, the temperature and humidity are more closely related to the Tidewater Area in Virginia where there are fewer days with those conditions.

Onsite HazMat Incident

A hazardous material may be defined as a substance or material, which, due to its chemical, physical or biological nature, poses a threat to life, health or property if released from a confined setting. On-site HazMats are a concern for Dorchester County. The county maintains a record of each site and the material(s) stored at the site. These sites include water and sewage treatment plants, and a number of manufacturing, wholesale and retail concerns in Cambridge and Hurlock areas. 

Transportation HazMat Incident

Hazardous materials are constantly being moved in Maryland on interstate highways, rail systems and on shipping lanes in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The bulk of hazardous materials pass through the County by truck, particularly on Route 50, which crosses the northern part of the County from west to east. Other highways that are used to transport hazardous materials include: State Routes 14, 16, and 331.


Epidemics can be considered as part of a broad hazard category that could be termed “public health emergencies.” In addition to disease epidemics, such events can take the form of large scale incidents of food or water contamination, infestations of disease bearing insects or rodents, or extended periods without adequate water or sewer service. 

Dam Failure

A dam failure is simply an uncontrolled release of water from a reservoir through a dam as a result of structural failures or deficiencies in the dam. According to the USACE National Inventory of Dams, four (4) dams are located in Dorchester County.


Motion or trembling of the ground produced by sudden displacement of rock usually within the upper 10-20 miles of the Earth's crust affecting roadways and foundations of buildings. Although no earthquake epicenters have been documented within Dorchester County, all of the county could be affected by earthquakes occurring in neighboring states. The most significant event to affect Dorchester County was the 2011 Virginia Earthquake.

Hazard Risk Assessment

Hazards that have the potential to impact Dorchester County are listed below. These hazards have been ranked by Stakeholder members, as follows: High, Medium-High, Medium, and Low .


For the complete Hazard Identification & Risk Assessment (HIRA) process, click below.

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