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Mudflow hazards along the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers from a hypothetical failure of Spirit Lake blockage

January 1, 1983

The debris avalanche accompanying the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens, in southwestern Washington, buried the former outlet of Spirit Lake, located 5 miles north of the volcano, to a depth ranging to 500 feet. Since that time, Spirit Lake has had no natural outlet and its lake level and contents have increased significantly. Erosion at the crest of the debris dam on the surface of the blockage and recent studies of theblockage stratigraphy and soil properties showing that the effective crest elevation is lower than the surface crest have led to concern that the lake may someday breach through or spill over the top of the blockage. A study was made by the U.S. Geological Survey to determine the extent of inundation that might result downstream in the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers if a hypothetical breach should occur and generate a mudflow flood of catastrophic proportions. A hypothetical breach of Spirit Lake produced a hypothetical mudflow hydrograph with a peak discharge of 2.65 million cu ft/s and a sediment concentration of 65 percent by volume at Camp Baker on the North Fork Toutle River. Elevations determined by the hydraulic routing of the mudflow were used to prepare inundation maps, indicating depths of inundation to be about 60 feet at Castle Rock and Lexington; 30-40 feet at Toutle, Toutle Lake at Silver Lake, Kelson, and Longview; and 15-20 feet at Toledo. Travel times for the peak elevation were estimated to be about 15 hours to Kid Valley on the North Fork Toutle River, 21 hours to Castle Rock, 22 hours to Toledo, and 23 hours to Kelso and Longview on the Cowlitz River. (USGS)

Publication Year 1983
Title Mudflow hazards along the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers from a hypothetical failure of Spirit Lake blockage
DOI 10.3133/wri824125
Authors C.H. Swift, D. L. Kresch
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 82-4125
Index ID wri824125
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse