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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-171
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-171
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Jul 2019

Research article | 10 Jul 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Hydrometeorological Conditions Leading to the 2015 Salgar Flash Flood: Lessons for Vulnerable Regions in Tropical Complex Terrain

Carlos D. Hoyos1,2, Lina I. Ceballos1,2, Jhayron S. Pérez1,2, Julián Sepúlveda1,2, Silvana M. López1,2, Manuel D. Zuluaga1, Nicolás Velásquez1,2, Laura Herrera1,2, Olver Hernández2, Gisel Guzmán1,2, and Mauricio Zapata1,2 Carlos D. Hoyos et al.
  • 1Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín, Facultad de Minas, Departamento de Geociencias y Medio Ambiente
  • 2Sistema de Alerta Temprana de Medellín y el Valle de Aburrá (SIATA), Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (AMVA)

Abstract. Flash floods are a recurrent hazard for many developing Latin American regions due to their complex mountainous terrain and the rainfall characteristics in the Tropics. These regions often lack the timely and high-quality information needed to assess, in real-time, the threats to the vulnerable communities due to extreme hydrometeorological events. The systematic assessment of past extreme events allows improving our prediction capabilities of flash floods. In May 2015, a flash flood in La Liboriana basin, municipality of Salgar, Colombia, caused more than 100 casualties and significant infrastructure damage. Despite the data scarcity, the climatological aspects, meteorological conditions, and first-order hydrometeorological mechanisms associated with La Liboriana flash flood, including orographic intensification and the spatial distribution of the rainfall intensity relative to the basin's geomorphological features, are studied using precipitation information obtained using a weather radar quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) technique, as well as from satellite products, in situ rain gauges from neighboring basins, quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) from an operational Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model application, and data from reanalysis products. La Liboriana flash flood took place during a period with negative precipitation anomalies over most of the country as a result of an El Niño event. However, during May 2015, moist easterly flow towards the upper part of La Liboriana caused significant orographic rainfall enhancement. The overall evidence shows an important role of successive precipitation events in a relatively short period, and of orography, in the spatial distribution of rainfall and its intensification as convective cores approached the steepest topography. There were three consecutive events generating significant rainfall within La Liboriana basin, and no single precipitation event was exceptionally large to generate the flash flood, but rather the combined role of precedent rainfall, and extreme hourly precipitation triggered the event. The results point to key lessons for improving local risk reduction strategies in vulnerable regions with complex terrain.

Carlos D. Hoyos et al.
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Carlos D. Hoyos et al.
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Short summary
On the morning of May 18, 2015, a flash flood in La Liboriana river basin inundated the town of Salgar, killing more than one hundred people. The ultimate goal of science, regarding risk management, is to be able to reduce the number of people affected by severe storms. Our goal is to identify the meteorological conditions that led to the flood, assessing the characteristics of the rainfall events before the disaster, and identifying lessons for vulnerable regions settled in complex terrain.
On the morning of May 18, 2015, a flash flood in La Liboriana river basin inundated the town of...
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