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Developing flood-inundation maps for Johnson Creek, Portland, Oregon

April 14, 2017

Digital flood-inundation maps were created for a 12.9‑mile reach of Johnson Creek by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The flood-inundation maps depict estimates of water depth and areal extent of flooding from the mouth of Johnson Creek to just upstream of Southeast 174th Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Each flood-inundation map is based on a specific water level and associated streamflow at the USGS streamgage, Johnson Creek at Sycamore, Oregon (14211500), which is located near the upstream boundary of the maps. The maps produced by the USGS, and the forecasted flood hydrographs produced by National Weather Service River Forecast Center can be accessed through the USGS Flood Inundation Mapper Web site (

Water-surface elevations were computed for Johnson Creek using a combined one-dimensional and two‑dimensional unsteady hydraulic flow model. The model was calibrated using data collected from the flood of December 2015 (including the calculated streamflows at two USGS streamgages on Johnson Creek) and validated with data from the flood of January 2009. Results were typically within 0.6 foot (ft) of recorded or measured water-surface elevations from the December 2015 flood, and within 0.8 ft from the January 2009 flood. Output from the hydraulic model was used to create eight flood inundation maps ranging in stage from 9 to 16 ft. Boundary condition hydrographs were identical in shape to those from the December 2015 flood event, but were scaled up or down to produce the amount of streamflow corresponding to a specific water-surface elevation at the Sycamore streamgage (14211500). Sensitivity analyses using other hydrograph shapes, and a version of the model in which the peak flow is maintained for an extended period of time, showed minimal variation, except for overbank areas near the Foster Floodplain Natural Area.

Simulated water-surface profiles were combined with light detection and ranging (lidar) data collected in 2014 to delineate water-surface extents for each of the eight modeled stages. The availability of flood-inundation maps in conjunction with real-time data from the USGS streamgages along Johnson Creek and forecasted hydrographs from the National Weather Service Northwest River Forecast Center will provide residents of the watershed and emergency management personnel with valuable information that may aid in flood response, including potential evacuations, road closures, and mitigation efforts. In addition, these maps may be used for post-flood recovery efforts.

Publication Year 2017
Title Developing flood-inundation maps for Johnson Creek, Portland, Oregon
DOI 10.3133/sir20175024
Authors Adam J. Stonewall, Benjamin A. Beal
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5024
Index ID sir20175024
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center