Experimental testing of flexible barriers for containment of debris flows

Open-File Report 99-205

, , , , , and



In June 1996, six experiments conducted at the U.S. Geological Survey Debris Flow Flume demonstrated that flexible, vertical barriers constructed of wire rope netting can stop small debris flows. All experimental debris flows consisted of water-saturated gravelly sand with less than two percent finer sediment by weight. All debris flows had volumes of about 10 cubic meters, masses of about 20 metre tons, and impact velocities of 5 to 9 meters per second. In four experiments, the debris flow impacted pristine, unreformed barriers of varying design; in the other two experiments, the debris flow impacted barriers already loaded with sediment from a previous flow. Differences in barrier design led to differences in barrier performance. Experiments were conducted with barriers constructed of square-mesh wire-rope netting with 30centimeter, 20centimeter, and 15 centimeter mesh openings as well as 30centimeter diameter interlocking steel rings. In all cases, sediment cascading downslope at the leading edge of the debris flows tended to spray through the nets. Nets fitted with finer-mesh chain link or chicken wire liners contained more sediment than did unlined nets, and a ring net fitted with a synthetic silt screen liner contained nearly 100 percent of the sediment. Irreversible net displacements of up to 2 meters and friction brake engagement on the support and anchor cables dissipated some of the impact energy. However, substantial forces developed in the steel support columns and the lateral and tie-back anchor cables attached to these columns. As predicted by elementary mechanics, the anchor cables experienced larger tensile forces when the support columns were hinged at the base rather than bolted rigidly to the foundation. Measured loads in the lateral anchor cables exceeded those in the tie-back anchor cables and the load cell capacity of 45 kilo-Newtons. Measurements also indicated that the peak loads in the tie- back anchors were highly transient and occurred at the points of maximum momentum impulse to the net.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Experimental testing of flexible barriers for containment of debris flows
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Distribution [distributor],
vi, 39 p. :ill. ;28 cm.