Flood of October 1986 at Seward, Alaska

Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4278




Broad areas along the lower Resurrection River and Salmon Creek as well as the surfaces of several adjacent alluvial fans in the Seward area were flooded as a result of the intensive rainstorm of October 9-11, 1986. Severe erosion took place through the steep gradient, mountain canyons and near the apex of the fans, while rock and debris were deposited on the distal parts of the fans. In Godwin, Lost, Box Canyon, Japanese, and Spruce Creek basins, and perhaps others, landslides or debris avalanches dammed the streams temporarily. Subsequent failure or overtopping of these dams led to ' surge-release ' flooding; peak discharge of such a flood at Spruce Creek was 13,600 cu ft/sec, four times as great as any previously known maximum discharge from the basin and 2.5 times as great as the runoff rate from the debris dam. Flood discharges were determined indirectly--using the slope-area method--at ten high-gradient reaches on nine streams. Computed peak discharges for several small basins were the largest since records began in 1963. The largest rainfall-runoff rate unaffected by surge-release was 1 ,020 cu ft per sec per sq mi at Rudolph Creek, which has a drainage area of 1.00 sq mi. The 15.05 inches of rain that fell in one 24-hour period during the storm was assigned a recurrence interval of 100 years or greater. The length of the streamflow record available for most Seward area streams-25 years or less-is inadequate to reliably define flood frequency relations for recurrence intervals as great as 100 years. However, the slope-area determined discharge of Spruce Creek above the debris avalanche indicates a recurrence interval of a 100 years or greater. In addition, conventional flood-frequency analysis techniques are not applicable to peak discharges that are affected by surge-release phenomena. Large, damaging floods have repeatedly caused major damage in the Seward area, and the potential for catastrophic, debris-laden floods is an ever-present threat to areas bordering the many steep mountain streams. (Author 's abstract)

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Flood of October 1986 at Seward, Alaska
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
vi, 43 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.