Natural Hazards

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 459–482 | Cite as

Evaluation of real-time flash flood forecasts for Haiti during the passage of Hurricane Tomas, November 4–6, 2010

  • E. Shamir
  • K. P. Georgakakos
  • C. Spencer
  • T. M. Modrick
  • M. J. MurphyJr.
  • R. Jubach
Original Paper


The January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti left its population ever more vulnerable to rainfall-induced flash floods. A flash flood guidance system has been implemented to provide real-time information on the potential of small (~70 km2) basins for flash flooding throughout Haiti. This system has components for satellite rainfall ingest and adjustment on the basis of rain gauge information, dynamic soil water deficit estimation, ingest of operational mesoscale model quantitative precipitation forecasts, and estimation of the times of channel flow at bankfull. The result of the system integration is the estimation of the flash flood guidance (FFG) for a given basin and for a given duration. FFG is the amount of rain of a given duration over a small basin that causes minor flooding in the outlet of the basin. Amounts predicted or nowcasted that are higher than the FFG indicate basins with potential for flash flooding. In preparation for Hurricane Tomas’ landfall in early November 2010, the FFG system was used to generate 36-h forecasts of flash flood occurrence based on rainfall forecasts of the nested high-resolution North American Model of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. Assessment of the forecast flood maps and forecast precipitation indicates the utility and value of the forecasts in understanding the spatial distribution of the expected flooding for mitigation and disaster management. It also highlights the need for explicit uncertainty characterization of forecast risk products due to large uncertainties in quantitative precipitation forecasts on hydrologic basin scales.


Haiti Flash flood guidance Flash flood forecast Disaster management Hurricane Tomas 



The HDRFFG system was implemented by the Hydrologic Research Center in collaboration with the US National Weather Service. Funding for this project was provided by the US Agency for International Development/Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). Various agencies made available valuable data sets for this study: Hydro-Estimator precipitation data from National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, precipitation forecast from National Centers of Environmental Prediction, real-time forecast and tracking information about Hurricane Tomas from the US National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center, and gauge data from the National Climatic Data Center. Other static datasets are from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Climate Research Unit – University of East Anglia, Satellite images were made available from GeoEye Foundation and Google Earth. Special thanks extended to the US Southern Command, which assisted in the validation task. The authors thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editor of the journal for helping improve the readability of the original manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Shamir
    • 1
  • K. P. Georgakakos
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Spencer
    • 1
  • T. M. Modrick
    • 1
  • M. J. MurphyJr.
    • 1
    • 3
  • R. Jubach
    • 1
  1. 1.Hydrologic Research CenterSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.School of Mathematical SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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