Geomorphic Responses to Extreme Rainfall, Catastrophic Flooding, and Dam Failures across an Urban to Rural Landscape
breached dams, floodplains, floods, infrastructure, urban hydrology
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
The extreme rainfall of October 2015 in South Carolina generated numerous dam failures and spawned the flood of record at most U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges. Detailed field sampling and systematic image analysis are used to document the immediate and sustained geomorphic adjustments at four failed dams within the urbanized Gills Creek watershed. That urban focus is augmented with a similar analysis at five failed dams in more rural settings where less urban infrastructure exists. We also document the magnitude and type of geomorphic adjustments throughout the Gills Creek watershed unrelated to dam failures. Despite the extreme rainfall and associated flooding, the geomorphic effects were limited and localized, manifesting primarily at dam failures but not progressing significantly downstream, especially along Gills Creek, where the combination of intact dams, frequent urban roughness elements, thick floodplain vegetation, and numerous wetlands explains the lack of significant morphologic adjustments or major deposition. Dam failures in rural settings showed greater overbank deposition but the geomorphic effects were still limited to dam proximal locations because of the thick vegetal cover below the dam. Because these dams in rural and urban settings were constructed to maximize waterfront property, low gradient sites were selected; therefore, the geomorphic effects were unlike planned dam removals where massive headcutting, knickpoint migration, and sediment evacuation tend to occur. The most significant effect of the dam failures was the shift from an initial braided channel to a single thread channel within the emptied reservoirs, which occurred quickly, often within the first few months.
Department of Geography
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Magilligan, Francis J.; James, L. Allan; Lecce, Scott A.; Dietrich, James T.; and Kupfer, John A., "Geomorphic Responses to Extreme Rainfall, Catastrophic Flooding, and Dam Failures across an Urban to Rural Landscape" (2019). Faculty Publications. 510.