Student: Rachel Hurley

Project: How Can We Predict Flash Flooding? Metrics and Models for Estimating Stream Flashiness in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Poster: Horizontal (PDF) | Vertical (PDF)

Institution: Lafayette College

Major: Integrative Engineering

Advisor: David Brandes & Christa Kelleher


Due to climate change, heavy rainfall in the Mid-Atlantic Region is becoming more frequent and intense, contributing to the increase in flash flooding. The National Weather Service (NWS) currently forecasts flooding based on rainfall and soil moisture which doesn’t account for watershed characteristics that could impact the flood responses of streams. In our study we consider a multitude of natural watershed parameters as well as parameters that describe human development that may influence flashiness of 195 watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic Region. We develop a series of linear models to predict watershed behaviors. Our analysis shows that stream flashiness behaviors and primary predictor variables vary among geographical regions as well as are significantly different between urban vs rural watersheds (80% development threshold). We develop six  different models among 5 geographical regions and one model for urban watersheds. Our findings conclude that stream flashiness can be best predicted when viewed on the regional scale for rural watersheds (Development>80%) and regional variability becomes less significant for urban watersheds when predicting flashiness. Our multivariable models can be utilized by NWS and flash flood warning systems to better predict the flashiness of streams based on watershed characteristics.

Rachel Hurley

About Rachel Hurley

Rachel Hurley is a senior integrative engineering major from Lafayette College. She works as an Excel Scholar at Lafayette as well as a research assistant at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). She will be pursuing her PhD at WPI after graduation in the Civil and Environmental as a member of the Building Occupants Signal Synthesis Lab. Her research interests include indoor environmental quality, indoor occupant interactions, climate change, natural disasters and education.