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Loss estimation pilot project for lahar hazards from Mount Rainier, Washington

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Author(s): Recep Cakir, Timothy J. Walsh

Document Type: Information Circular 113
Publisher: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources
Published Year: 2012
Pages: 23
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

This project was undertaken by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Earth Resources (WADNR–DGER), in response to a Request for Proposals from the U.S. Geological Survey Volcano Hazard Program – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) (Award Number G10AC00057) to estimate the potential economic losses from future eruptions of Mount Rainier. Eleven major rivers drain Mount Rainier and lead to six lowland valleys with a combined population of more than 2.5 million and total assets of about $40 billion at risk from lahars. We have adapted lahar hazard zones developed by Hoblitt and others (1998) and converted to digital data by Schilling and others (2008) to the appropriate format for Hazus-MH (Hazard US – Multi Hazard), the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) loss estimation model (FEMA, 2009b). We have assumed that structures engulfed by cohesive lahars will suffer complete loss and that structures affected by noncohesive post-lahar flooding will be appropriately presented or modeled in the Hazus-MH flood model.

The Puyallup Valley was chosen as the focus for this pilot project because it is the valley most susceptible to lahars caused by flank collapse and has the most population and property at risk. Our initial model used the Hazus default inventory, which includes generalized building types and values from census data. This model gave an estimated loss of about $12 billion for a noncohesive lahar down the Puyallup River, similar to the Electron Mudflow (Crandell, 1971). Because the Hazus-MH inventory is based on census tracts, this damage estimate includes everything in the tracts that is at least partly within the lahar hazard zone, even buildings outside the lahar hazard zone. To enhance this inventory, we acquired assessor’s data from all of the affected counties and converted them into the Hazus-MH format. We then selected the data we were interested in out of the larger data set for the boundaries of the lahar hazard zones to more precisely delineate those properties actually at risk in each scenario. This refined our initial loss estimate for the Puyallup Valley to about $6 billion, with exclusion of building content values.

The results of these revised Hazus-MH models for the six lowland valleys at risk for lahars from Mount Rainier are posted on the Washington State Geologic Information Portal ( Data/Pages/geology_ portal.aspx).

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Cakir and Walsh (2012) or (Cakir and Walsh, 2012)

References Citation:
Cakir, R. and T.J. Walsh, 2012, Loss estimation pilot project for lahar hazards from Mount Rainier, Washington: Information Circular 113, Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources, 23 p..