Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Geography & Geographic Information Science

First Advisor

Gregory S. Vandeberg



Flash flooding is a rapid onset natural hazard and can cause extensive property and crop damages as well as deaths. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration storm database reports 464 flash flood events from 1996 to 2013 in North Dakota causing two deaths, more than $145 million in property damage and $14 million in crop damage. The main purpose of this study is to identify the critical areas of flash flooding within two selected watersheds in eastern North Dakota. The research method relies on the use of a GIS-based model, the Flash Flood Potential Index, that incorporates physiographic characteristics from the watershed. This Flash Flood Potential Index has been used for predictions at various geographic locations from Colorado to Iowa. The index has not been used, to our knowledge, in a flat-lying region such as the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. In this study, digital elevation models at 30 m and 3 m resolutions were used to evaluate the sensitivity of the index. Three different scenarios were used with changes for the original FFPI equation. The preliminary results include maps showing areas susceptible for flash flooding in the watersheds. Notably, the highest values of the index for this study correspond to urbanized areas and impervious surfaces such as roads and built spaces, and high slopes reflecting an increased vulnerability to floods and inundation of the watersheds. The correlation between historical events and index results was also tested. Some modifications of the index for flat-lying landscapes might have to be considered in future studies.