Heavy, persistent rains from late February through March 2010 caused severe flooding that set, or nearly set, peaks of record for streamflows and water levels at many long-term streamgages in Rhode Island. In response to this event, hydraulic models were updated for selected reaches covering about 56 river miles in the Pawtuxet River Basin to simulate water-surface elevations (WSEs) at specified flows and boundary conditions. Reaches modeled included the main stem of the Pawtuxet River, the North and South Branches of the Pawtuxet River, Pocasset River, Simmons Brook, Dry Brook, Meshanticut Brook, Furnace Hill Brook, Flat River, Quidneck Brook, and two unnamed tributaries referred to as South Branch Pawtuxet River Tributary A1 and Tributary A2. All the hydraulic models were updated to Hydrologic Engineering Center-River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) version 4.1.0 using steady-state simulations. Updates to the models included incorporation of new field-survey data at structures, high resolution land-surface elevation data, and updated flood flows from a related study.
The models were assessed using high-water marks (HWMs) obtained in a related study following the March– April 2010 flood and the simulated water levels at the 0.2-percent annual exceedance probability (AEP), which is the estimated AEP of the 2010 flood in the basin. HWMs were obtained at 110 sites along the main stem of the Pawtuxet River, the North and South Branches of the Pawtuxet River, Pocasset River, Simmons Brook, Furnace Hill Brook, Flat River, and Quidneck Brook. Differences between the 2010 HWM elevations and the simulated 0.2-percent AEP WSEs from flood insurance studies (FISs) and the updated models developed in this study varied with most differences attributed to the magnitude of the 0.2-percent AEP flows. WSEs from the updated models generally are in closer agreement with the observed 2010 HWMs than with the FIS WSEs. The improved agreement of the updated simulated water elevations to observed 2010 HWMs provides a measure of the hydraulic model performance, which indicates the updated models better represent flooding at other AEPs than the existing FIS models.