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Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4277

Flood-Hazard Mapping in Honduras in Response to Hurricane Mitch

Prepared in cooperation with

By Mark C. Mastin


The devastation in Honduras due to flooding from Hurricane Mitch in 1998 prompted the U.S. Agency for International Development, through the U.S. Geological Survey, to develop a country-wide systematic approach of flood-hazard mapping and a demonstration of the method at selected sites as part of a reconstruction effort. The design discharge chosen for flood-hazard mapping was the flood with an average return interval of 50 years, and this selection was based on discussions with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Honduran Public Works and Transportation Ministry. A regression equation for estimating the 50-year flood discharge using drainage area and annual precipitation as the explanatory variables was developed, based on data from 34 long-term gaging sites. This equation, which has a standard error of prediction of 71.3 percent, was used in a geographic information system to estimate the 50-year flood discharge at any location for any river in the country. The flood-hazard mapping method was demonstrated at 15 selected municipalities. High-resolution digital-elevation models of the floodplain were obtained using an airborne laser-terrain mapping system. Field verification of the digital elevation models showed that the digital-elevation models had mean absolute errors ranging from -0.57 to 0.14 meter in the vertical dimension. From these models, water-surface elevation cross sections were obtained and used in a numerical, one-dimensional, steady-flow stepbackwater model to estimate water-surface profiles corresponding to the 50-year flood discharge. From these water-surface profiles, maps of area and depth of inundation were created at the 13 of the 15 selected municipalities. At La Lima only, the area and depth of inundation of the channel capacity in the city was mapped. At Santa Rose de Aguán, no numerical model was created. The 50-year flood and the maps of area and depth of inundation are based on the estimated 50-year storm tide.


Regional Hydrology of Honduras
Data Sources
Frequency Analysis of Precipitation and Peak Flows
Flood Hazard Mapping Method
References Cited

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, Mark Mastin ( 253.428.3600 ext. 2609.

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