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Spirit Lake dam-failure flood routing assessment

January 1, 1985

Potential clear-water floodflows resulting from uncontrolled breaching by Spirit Lake of a debris dam deposited by the May 18 , 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington, were evaluated. U.S. Geological Survey dam-break model K-634 was utilized, first to compute clear-water flood hydrographs for various hypothetical breach scenarios, and then to hydraulically route them downstream to the mouth of the Toutle River. Dam-break computations were obtained for 12 breach-development scenarios. Eight of the scenarios modeled breaches caused by overtopping of the June 1982 crest of the debris dam, while the other four modeled breaches resulting from overtopping of the debris dam at a possible future crest altitude of 3,490 feet. Equal numbers of scenarios, six each, were modeled for breach development durations of 0.25 hour and 1.0 hour. Peak discharges and times of arrival at selected locations for scenarios with breach development durations of 1.0 hour are presented in tables. Peak discharges computed for dam-break scenarios with breach crest widths of 400 feet are almost twice the magnitude of those computed for scenarios identical in all other respects, but with widths of 200 feet. Peak discharges computed for breaches caused by overtopping of the debris dam at an altitude of 3,531.8 feet were generally found to be roughly five times greater than those caused by overtopping at an altitude of 3,490 feet, if the breaches had identical crest elevations and crest widths. Decreases in peak discharge from Spirit Lake to the mouth of the Toutle River ranged from 16 to 26 percent for the scenarios modeled. This lack of significant attenuation is primarily due to the large volume and surface area of Spirit lake (in excess of 360,000 acre-feet and 3,000 acres, respectively, for all scenarios modeled), which result in the continued discharge of high flows long after breach development is complete. The degree of attenuation is also minimized by the generally steep narrow valleys through which the North Fork Toutle and Toutle Rivers flow. Elapsed time from beginning of breach development to arrival of peak discharges at the mouth of the Toutle River ranged from 4.3 to 7.4 hours for the scenarios modeled. (USGS)

Publication Year 1985
Title Spirit Lake dam-failure flood routing assessment
DOI 10.3133/ofr82770
Authors D. L. Kresch
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 82-770
Index ID ofr82770
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse