A comparative analysis of hazard models for predicting debris flows in Madison County, VA

Open-File Report 2001-67

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During the rainstorm of June 27, 1995, roughly 330-750 mm of rain fell within a sixteen-hour period, initiating floods and over 600 debris flows in a small area (130 km2) of Madison County, Virginia. Field studies showed that the majority (70%) of these debris flows initiated with a thickness of 0.5 to 3.0 m in colluvium on slopes from 17 o to 41 o (Wieczorek et al., 2000). This paper evaluated and compared the approaches of SINMAP, LISA, and Iverson's (2000) transient response model for slope stability analysis by applying each model to the landslide data from Madison County. Of these three stability models, only Iverson's transient response model evaluated stability conditions as a function of time and depth. Iverson?s model would be the preferred method of the three models to evaluate landslide hazards on a regional scale in areas prone to rain-induced landslides as it considers both the transient and spatial response of pore pressure in its calculation of slope stability. The stability calculation used in SINMAP and LISA is similar and utilizes probability distribution functions for certain parameters. Unlike SINMAP that only considers soil cohesion, internal friction angle and rainfall-rate distributions, LISA allows the use of distributed data for all parameters, so it is the preferred model to evaluate slope stability over SINMAP. Results from all three models suggested similar soil and hydrologic properties for triggering the landslides that occurred during the 1995 storm in Madison County, Virginia. The colluvium probably had cohesion of less than 2KPa. The root-soil system is above the failure plane and consequently root strength and tree surcharge had negligible effect on slope stability. The result that the final location of the water table was near the ground surface is supported by the water budget analysis of the rainstorm conducted by Smith et al. (1996).

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A comparative analysis of hazard models for predicting debris flows in Madison County, VA
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Open-File Report
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Version 1.0
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