Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
04 May 2012
Research article |  | 04 May 2012

The 6 August 2010 Mount Meager rock slide-debris flow, Coast Mountains, British Columbia: characteristics, dynamics, and implications for hazard and risk assessment

R. H. Guthrie, P. Friele, K. Allstadt, N. Roberts, S. G. Evans, K. B. Delaney, D. Roche, J. J. Clague, and M. Jakob

Abstract. A large rock avalanche occurred at 03:27:30 PDT, 6 August 2010, in the Mount Meager Volcanic Complex southwest British Columbia. The landslide initiated as a rock slide in Pleistocene rhyodacitic volcanic rock with the collapse of the secondary peak of Mount Meager. The detached rock mass impacted the volcano's weathered and saturated flanks, creating a visible seismic signature on nearby seismographs. Undrained loading of the sloping flank caused the immediate and extremely rapid evacuation of the entire flank with a strong horizontal force, as the rock slide transformed into a debris flow. The disintegrating mass travelled down Capricorn Creek at an average velocity of 64 m s−1, exhibiting dramatic super-elevation in bends to the intersection of Meager Creek, 7.8 km from the source. At Meager Creek the debris impacted the south side of Meager valley, causing a runup of 270 m above the valley floor and the deflection of the landslide debris both upstream (for 3.7 km) and downstream into the Lillooet River valley (for 4.9 km), where it blocked the Lillooet River river for a couple of hours, approximately 10 km from the landslide source. Deposition at the Capricorn–Meager confluence also dammed Meager Creek for about 19 h creating a lake 1.5 km long. The overtopping of the dam and the predicted outburst flood was the basis for a night time evacuation of 1500 residents in the town of Pemberton, 65 km downstream. High-resolution GeoEye satellite imagery obtained on 16 October 2010 was used to create a post-event digital elevation model. Comparing pre- and post-event topography we estimate the volume of the initial displaced mass from the flank of Mount Meager to be 48.5 × 106 m3, the height of the path (H) to be 2183 m and the total length of the path (L) to be 12.7 km. This yields H/L = 0.172 and a fahrböschung (travel angle) of 9.75°. The movement was recorded on seismographs in British Columbia and Washington State with the initial impact, the debris flow travelling through bends in Capricorn Creek, and the impact with Meager Creek are all evident on a number of seismograms. The landslide had a seismic trace equivalent to a M = 2.6 earthquake. Velocities and dynamics of the movement were simulated using DAN-W. The 2010 event is the third major landslide in the Capricorn Creek watershed since 1998 and the fifth large-scale mass flow in the Meager Creek watershed since 1930. No lives were lost in the event, but despite its relatively remote location direct costs of the 2010 landslide are estimated to be in the order of $10 M CAD.