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Assessment of a post-fire debris flow impacting El Capitan Watershed, Santa Barbara County, California, U.S.A.


In the summer of 2016, the Sherpa Fire burned 30.2 km (super 2) in steep terrain in western Santa Barbara County, California. Rainfall events in the subsequent wet season produced damaging post-wildfire flooding and debris flows. This paper presents a case study along a watershed within the burned area, El Capitan Creek, that (1) describes the events and conditions that led to the post-wildfire flooding and debris flow events, and (2) documents the debris flow deposits and inundation zone impacted by the events. Observations compiled after three post-wildfire precipitation events indicate that three distinct flow processes impacted El Capitan Creek between 19 and 22 January 2017. These flow processes included watery flows, hyper-concentrated flows, and debris flows. The velocity and concentrated nature of these flows caused overbanking and channel avulsions that resulted in damaged roads, bridges, pipelines, and major infrastructure damage to the El Capitan Canyon Resort. These events occurred only 1 year prior to the devastating Montecito debris flows of 2018 and call attention to the conditions that produced these impactful flows and highlight the timing and conditions that generate post-wildfire debris flows. Information from case studies such as this can guide decision makers and emergency managers to understand the hazards and risks that floods and debris flows pose on communities below steep mountain drainages and support the development of sound protocols to help reduce the threat to life, property, and infrastructure in downstream communities.

ISSN: 1078-7275
EISSN: 1558-9161
Coden: ENGEA9
Serial Title: Environmental & Engineering Geoscience
Serial Volume: 27
Serial Issue: 4
Title: Assessment of a post-fire debris flow impacting El Capitan Watershed, Santa Barbara County, California, U.S.A.
Title: Special issue on slope stability in memory of Jerome (Jerry) De Graff; part 1
Author(s): Schwartz, Jonathan YonniOakley, Nina S.Alessio, Paul
Author(s): Staley, Dennisprefacer
Author(s): Lancaster, Jeremyprefacer
Author(s): Gallegos, Alanprefacer
Author(s): Wasklewicz, Thadprefacer
Affiliation: U. S. Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest, Minerals & Geology, Ojai, CA, United States
Affiliation: U. S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, United States
Pages: 423-437
Published: 202111
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America, Association of Engineering Geologists, College Station, TX, United States
References: 46
Accession Number: 2021-076064
Categories: Geomorphology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. geol. sketch maps
N34°25'00" - N35°10'00", W120°45'00" - W119°25'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, USA, United StatesUniversity of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2021, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Association of Engineering Geologists and the Geological Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 202152
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