Assessment of Debris Flow Hazards, North Mountain, Phoenix, AZ

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Thad A Wasklewicz and Kathryn J Reavis, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, United States
Urban sprawl in many western U.S. cities has expanded development onto alluvial fans. In the case of metropolitan Phoenix, AZ (MPA), urban sprawl has led to an exponential outward growth into surrounding mountainous areas and onto alluvial fans. Building on alluvial fans places humans at greater risk to flooding and debris flow hazards. Recent research has shown debris flows often supply large quantities of material to many alluvial fans in MPA. However, the risk of debris flows to built environments is relatively unknown. We use a 2D debris flow modeling approach, aided by high-resolution airborne LiDAR and terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) topographic data, to examine debris flow behavior in a densely populated portion of the MPA to assess the risk and vulnerability of debris flow damage to the built infrastructure. A calibrated 2D debris flow model is developed for a "known" recent debris flow at an undeveloped site in MPA. The calibrated model and two other model scenarios are applied to a populated area with historical evidence of debris flow activity. Results from the modeled scenarios show evidence of debris flow damage to houses built on the alluvial fan. Debris flow inundation is also evident on streets on the fan. We use housing values and building damage to estimate the costs assocaited with various modeled debris flow scenarios.