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Better predict post-fire flooding with HEC models

September 12, 2023

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continues to improve its understanding of and capability to prepare for post-wildfire flooding.

Located in Davis, California the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) has improved two publicly available modeling programs, HEC-HMS and HEC-RAS, to enable users to better predict where water will flow in a post-wildfire environment.

A collection of new equations now account for hydrological processes likely to change after a wildfire. HEC-HMS, which simulates such watershed-level processes as infiltration, snowmelt, and evapotranspiration; and HEC-RAS, which narrowly focuses on stream-level processes such as sediment transport and fluctuations in water temperature.

Stanford Gibson, HEC Sediment Transport Specialist, described the ability to simulate more complex processes associated with wildfire response, “The hydraulics include some pretty ‘crunchy’ math. Mud and debris flows aren’t water and require new physics and theory. It delves into the world of rheology, which partly studies the flow of complex liquids, and non-Newtonian physics, which studies fluids that depart from Newton’s viscosity assumptions, both of which are fun for someone like me.”

USACE has been hosting training to acquaint users with the new modeling capabilities. With sufficient geographic data, HEC-HMS and HEC-RAS now can model the hydrological effects of a wildfire for virtually any location on Earth.

Approximately 100,000 people who use the USACE HEC tools each year.

HEC software is available for download without charge for use by individuals outside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Interested in integrating HEC models with your hydromet data system? Or need to modernize your data system to feed HEC models? Read about our customer’s success to automate weather, water and environmental data management through a sequence of HEC models to support water storage and prevent flooding.