Large wood debris that clogged bridges followed by a sudden release: the 2019 flash flood in Catalonia
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The aim is the reconstruction of the October 2019 flash flood, that was documented through extensive field work: rainfall (300 mm in just a few hours), flood marks, times of flood passage and witnesses' snapshots and reports, channel changes, log drift (20,000 trees) and woody debris at bridges, as well as large damage and six fatalities. The methods are: hydrological model built for the rainfall-runoff in the basin and the flood routing in the river, use of hydraulic principles such as flow at waterfalls, flow against obstacles (trees), etc. and finally 1D/2D free surface numerical models. The uppermost 100 km2 produced discharges of 700 m3/s (up to 50 m3/s/km2, locally). Three bridges failed, but their cascading failure (when one failure triggers the next one downstream) was not proved. The main channel widened more than 10 times, dragging away soil and vegetation like a bulldozer. The resulting large wood debris that clogged two bridges worsened the inundation. An anomalous flow downstream, probably a surge of around 1090 m3/s, due to the failure of a woody jam at a narrow bridge, took two lives. Water Authority is now warning flood planners that vegetated, torrential basins may cause catastrophic floods in the valley towns, if their narrow bridges are sensitive to woody debris.
CitationMartín-Vide, J.P. [et al.]. Large wood debris that clogged bridges followed by a sudden release: the 2019 flash flood in Catalonia. "Journal of hydrology: regional studies", Juny 2023, vol. 47, núm. article 101348.