Hamilton Spectator: Student recreates Spencer Creek flooding with 2D simulation

If you knew a flood was coming — and you could predict the water level and damages — your evacuation and response would be dramatically improved.

Such a tool might have helped the Dundas community back in April, when a month’s worth of rain fell in a single day. The flooding at Spencer Creek caused millions of dollars in damage and transformed streets into gushing rapids and mudslides.

Using 2D simulation, an engineering student from the University of Medjez El Bab in Tunisia has joined in on the work already being done at the University of Guelph to make those types of predictions possible. And they’re using Dundas as a case study.

“I am trying to simulate real and staged flooding events in order to create inundation maps,” said Houssem Hmaidi, who wrapped up his field work on Friday after 12 weeks.

“We will be able to define warning areas and forecasting water levels for flood incident management,” he said. “Eventually, this will improve future evacuation and response plans.”

Hmaidi is working with a hydrological model called HEC-RAS (Hydrologic Engineering Center’s River Analysis System), he says was developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

“I am focusing on the 2D aspect of this model because it is more suitable for urbanized areas where human habitation and development affect flood patterns,” he said.

The flood maps he creates can also predict how much time it will take for the water to reach those areas, and the time needed for the water to recede back to the river.

“It can also give us an idea on the estimated loss due to this disaster,” he said, citing land and infrastructure.

Hmaidi is one of 500 international students conducting research at 45 Canadian universities through a summer internship program called Mitacs Globalink.

“We know that this region is sensitive to flooding. And like any place where there’s been a lot of land-use changes and development, the stress of these changes can affect how the land might react to extreme flooding,” said Binns.
“But when we can develop predictive tools to understand how an area like this might flood, we can help city planners, engineers, and even local ecologists to mitigate the effects on urban areas.”
By: Rosie Grover