Debris flows and Floods from Extreme Precipitation in September 2013, Gila National Forest, NM

Science Center Objects

A record-breaking rainstorm in Glenwood, New Mexico and the surrounding areas occurred in September, 2013 leading to widespread and destructive flooding and debris flows, including watersheds burned the previous year by the Whitewater-Baldy Complex wildfire. In the area of the Whitewater-Baldy burn scar, a highway was overtopped by flash flooding on Whitewater Creek. Many side canyon tributaries to Whitewater and Mineral Creeks and other small upland watersheds within and outside of the burn perimeter experienced mass wasting of sediment by way of debris flows. There is an urgent need to better understand debris-flow generation processes and flood potential and to improve hazard predictions and assessments of vulnerability and risk.

Large debris flow, tributary to Whitewater Canyon, Gila National Forest, Glenwood, NM

Large debris flow, tributary to Whitewater Canyon, Gila National Forest, Glenwood, NM

(Public domain.)

Approach

USGS will:

  • Document and back calculate September 2013 flood flow on Whitewater Creek
  • Document locations, numbers, and length of debris flow scarps from aerial photograph taken before and after rainfall event
  • Analyze basin response to rainfall events

 

Objective

  • To document unprecedented flooding and debris¬≠ flow activity on and near the Whitewater-Baldy burn scar area
  • To add to a national debris flow database
  • To assist in updating USGS debris-flow prediction equations