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Missouri Water Science Center

In cooperation with the City of Kansas City, Missouri

Estimated Flood-Inundation Mapping for the Lower Blue River in Kansas City, Missouri, 2003—2005

U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5089

By: Brian P. Kelly and Paul H. Rydlund, Jr.



The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of Kansas City, Missouri, began a study in 2003 of the lower Blue River in Kansas City, Missouri, from Gregory Boulevard to the mouth at the Missouri River to determine the estimated extent of flood inundation in the Blue River valley from flooding on the lower Blue River and from Missouri River backwater. Much of the lower Blue River flood plain is covered by industrial development. Rapid development in the upper end of the watershed has increased the volume of runoff, and thus the discharge of flood events for the Blue River. Modifications to the channel of the Blue River began in late 1983 in response to the need for flood control. By 2004, the channel had been widened and straightened from the mouth to immediately downstream from Blue Parkway to convey a 30-year flood.

A two-dimensional depth-averaged flow model was used to simulate flooding within a 2-mile study reach of the Blue River between 63rd Street and Blue Parkway. Hydraulic simulation of the study reach provided information for the design and performance of proposed hydraulic structures and channel improvements and for the production of estimated flood-inundation maps and maps representing an areal distribution of water velocity, both magnitude and direction.

Flood profiles of the Blue River were developed between Gregory Boulevard and 63rd Street from stage elevations calculated from high water marks from the flood of May 19, 2004; between 63rd Street and Blue Parkway from two-dimensional hydraulic modeling conducted for this study; and between Blue Parkway and the mouth from an existing one-dimensional hydraulic model by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Twelve inundation maps were produced at 2-foot intervals for Blue Parkway stage elevations from 750 to 772 feet. Each map is associated with National Weather Service flood-peak forecast locations at 63rd Street, Blue Parkway, Stadium Drive, U.S. Highway 40, 12th Street, and the Missouri River at the Hannibal railroad bridge in Kansas City. The National Weather Service issues peak-stage forecasts for these locations during times of flooding. Missouri River backwater inundation profiles were developed using interpolated Missouri River stage elevations at the mouth of the Blue River. Twelve backwater-inundation maps were produced at 2-foot intervals for the mouth of the Blue River from 730.9 to 752.9.

To provide public access to the information presented in this report, a World Wide Web site ( was created that displays the results of two-dimensional modeling between 63rd Street and Blue Parkway, estimated flood-inundation maps, estimated backwater-inundation maps, and the latest gage heights and National Weather Service stage forecast for each forecast location within the study area. In addition, the full text of this report, all tables, and all plates are available for download at

Table of Contents



Purpose and Scope


Study Area Description

Two-Dimensional Model Application

Study Reach Description

Model Development

Model Calibration

Development of Simulated Rating Using One-Dimensional Hydraulic Analysis

Simulated Velocity Magnitude and Direction Flood-Inundation Maps

Estimated Flood-Inundation Mapping

Estimated Flood-Inundation Mapping Benefits and Limitations

Blue River Estimated Flood-Inundation Maps on the World Wide Web




1.  Velocity magnitude and direction maps–63rd Street

2.  Velocity magnitude and direction maps–Mid Reach

3.  Velocity magnitude and direction maps–Blue Parkway

4.  Estimated flood–inundation maps

5.  Estimated Missouri River backwater–inundation maps


Figures 1–9.  Maps showing:

1.  Study area, National Weather Service flood-forecast locations, and channel improvement limit

2.  Land-surface elevation of the study area

3.  Simulated study reach of the Blue River between 63rd Street and Blue Parkway

4.  Land-use coverage used in flow simulations in the study reach

5.  Finite-element mesh incorporating pier configuration for current (2005) Blue Parkway Bridge and downstream lower Blue Parkway Bridge for the model calibration flood of May 19, 2004

6.  Modified finite-element mesh based on pier configuration of the proposed Blue Parkway structure

7.  Simulated velocity magnitude for the May 19, 2004, flood

8.  Simulated water depth for the May 19, 2004, flood

9.  Simulated stage elevation and high-water observation for the May 19, 2004, flood

10. Cross sections used in the constructed HEC-RAS model

11. Graph showing calculated Blue River slopes, stage elevations, cross sections, and sources of data for all flood-inundation maps from Gregory Boulevard to the mouth of the Blue River

12–13. Maps showing:

12. Location of cross sections used for flood-inundation area interpolation and the area of the constructed FESWMS model used to create flood-inundation surfaces

13. Regions and sections of the Blue River flood-inundation maps associated with each forecast location


1.  Forecast location, zero datum, flood-gage height, and local flood impacts

2.  Manning’s n roughness coefficients for the calibrated model run

3.  Measured and simulated stage elevation, cross-sectional area, and velocity

4.  Measured and simulated conditions for the constructed HEC-RAS model

5.  Energy grade line (EGL) slope for Kansas City U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HEC-RAS model of the lower Blue River and HEC-RAS model constructed between the lower Blue River model and the study reach for selected flood-frequency values

6.  Simulated rating depicting stage elevation at the lower Blue Parkway Bridge and discharge as boundary conditions for developed flood-inundation maps in the study reach

7.  Equivalent peak flood-stage elevation and gage heights for forecast locations for flood inundation on the Blue River

8.  Equivalent flood-stage elevation and gage heights for forecast locations for Missouri River backwater inundation of the Blue River


Conversion Factors and Datum
MultiplyByTo obtain
inch (in.)2.54centimeter (cm)
foot (ft)0.3048meter (m)
mile (mi)1.609kilometer (km)
square foot (ft2)0.09290square meter (m2)
square mile (mi2)2.590square kilometer (km2)
Flow Rate 
foot per second (ft/s) 0.3048 meter per second (m/s)
foot per mile (ft/mi) 0.1894 meter per kilometer (m/km)
square foot per second (ft2/s) 0.0929 square meter per second (m2/s)
cubic foot per second (ft3/s)0.02832cubic meter per second (m3/s)
Hydraulic gradient
foot per mile (ft/mi) 0.1894 meter per kilometer (m/km)

Temperature in degrees Fahrenheit (°F) may be converted to degrees Celsius (°C) as follows:
° C = (°F -32)/ 1.8

Horizontal coordinate information is referenced to the North American Datum of 1983 (NAD 83).

Elevation, as used in this report, refers to distance above the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29) A geodetic datum derived from a general adjustment of the first-order level nets of both the United States and Canada, formerly called Sea Level Datum of 1929.

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

View the full report ( PDF 3.34 MB)

View the Appendixes

Document Accessibility:  Adobe Systems Incorporated has information about PDFs and the visually impaired. This information provides tools to help make PDF files accessible. These tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe at Adobe Access.

For more information about USGS activities in Missouri contact:


U.S. Geological Survey

Missouri Water Science Center

1400 Independence Road

Rolla, Missouri 65401

Telephone: (573) 308-3667

Fax: (573) 308-3645

or access the USGS Missouri Water Science Center home page at:

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