Articles | Volume 7, issue 4
18 Jul 2007
18 Jul 2007

Geomorphological method in the elaboration of hazard maps for flash-floods in the municipality of Jucuarán (El Salvador)

C. Fernández-Lavado, G. Furdada, and M. A. Marqués

Abstract. This work deals with the elaboration of flood hazard maps. These maps reflect the areas prone to floods based on the effects of Hurricane Mitch in the Municipality of Jucuarán of El Salvador. Stream channels located in the coastal range in the SE of El Salvador flow into the Pacific Ocean and generate alluvial fans. Communities often inhabit these fans can be affected by floods. The geomorphology of these stream basins is associated with small areas, steep slopes, well developed regolite and extensive deforestation. These features play a key role in the generation of flash-floods. This zone lacks comprehensive rainfall data and gauging stations. The most detailed topographic maps are on a scale of 1:25 000. Given that the scale was not sufficiently detailed, we used aerial photographs enlarged to the scale of 1:8000. The effects of Hurricane Mitch mapped on these photographs were regarded as the reference event. Flood maps have a dual purpose (1) community emergency plans, (2) regional land use planning carried out by local authorities. The geomorphological method is based on mapping the geomorphological evidence (alluvial fans, preferential stream channels, erosion and sedimentation, man-made terraces). Following the interpretation of the photographs this information was validated on the field and complemented by eyewitness reports such as the height of water and flow typology. In addition, community workshops were organized to obtain information about the evolution and the impact of the phenomena. The superimposition of this information enables us to obtain a comprehensive geomorphological map. Another aim of the study was the calculation of the peak discharge using the Manning and the paleohydraulic methods and estimates based on geomorphologic criterion. The results were compared with those obtained using the rational method. Significant differences in the order of magnitude of the calculated discharges were noted. The rational method underestimated the results owing to short and discontinuous periods of rainfall data with the result that probabilistic equations cannot be applied. The Manning method yields a wide range of results because of its dependence on the roughness coefficient. The paleohydraulic method yielded higher values than the rational and Manning methods. However, it should be pointed out that it is possible that bigger boulders could have been moved had they existed. These discharge values are lower than those obtained by the geomorphological estimates, i.e. much closer to reality. The flood hazard maps were derived from the comprehensive geomorphological map. Three categories of hazard were established (very high, high and moderate) using flood energy, water height and velocity flow deduced from geomorphological and eyewitness reports.