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Emergency Assessment of Postfire Debris-Flow Hazards for the 2009 Station Fire, San Gabriel Mountains, Southern California

Open-File Report 2009-1227

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Abstract

This report presents an emergency assessment of potential debris-flow hazards from basins burned by the 2009 Station fire in Los Angeles County, southern California. Statistical-empirical models developed for postfire debris flows are used to estimate the probability and volume of debris-flow production from 678 drainage basins within the burned area and to generate maps of areas that may be inundated along the San Gabriel mountain front by the estimated volume of material. Debris-flow probabilities and volumes are estimated as combined functions of different measures of basin burned extent, gradient, and material properties in response to both a 3-hour-duration, 1-year-recurrence thunderstorm and to a 12-hour-duration, 2-year recurrence storm. Debris-flow inundation areas are mapped for scenarios where all sediment-retention basins are empty and where the basins are all completely full. This assessment provides critical information for issuing warnings, locating and designing mitigation measures, and planning evacuation timing and routes within the first two winters following the fire. Tributary basins that drain into Pacoima Canyon, Big Tujunga Canyon, Arroyo Seco, West Fork of the San Gabriel River, and Devils Canyon were identified as having probabilities of debris-flow occurrence greater than 80 percent, the potential to produce debris flows with volumes greater than 100,000 m3, and the highest Combined Relative Debris-Flow Hazard Ranking in response to both storms. The predicted high probability and large magnitude of the response to such short-recurrence storms indicates the potential for significant debris-flow impacts to any buildings, roads, bridges, culverts, and reservoirs located both within these drainages and downstream from the burned area. These areas will require appropriate debris-flow mitigation and warning efforts. Probabilities of debris-flow occurrence greater than 80 percent, debris-flow volumes between 10,000 and 100,000 m3, and high Combined Relative Debris-Flow Hazard Rankings were estimated in response to both short recurrence-interval (1- and 2-year) storms for all but the smallest basins along the San Gabriel mountain front between Big Tujunga Canyon and Arroyo Seco. The combination of high probabilities and large magnitudes determined for these basins indicates significant debris-flow hazards for neighborhoods along the mountain front. When the capacity of sediment-retention basins is exceeded, debris flows may be deposited in neighborhoods and streets and impact infrastructure between the mountain front and Foothill Boulevard. In addition, debris flows may be deposited in neighborhoods immediately below unprotected basins. Hazards to neighborhoods and structures at risk from these events will require appropriate debris-flow mitigation and warning efforts.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Emergency Assessment of Postfire Debris-Flow Hazards for the 2009 Station Fire, San Gabriel Mountains, Southern California
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2009-1227
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2009
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
Description:
iv, 24 p.
Time Range Start:
2009-08-01T12:00:00
Time Range End:
2009-09-30T12:00:00
Online Only (Y/N):
Y