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Sediment Properties, Flow Patterns and Turbulence in an Urban Environment during the 12-13 January 2011 Flood of the Brisbane River

Richard Brown1 and Hubert Chanson2

1 Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Science and Engineering Faculty, Brisbane QLD 4000, Australia
2 Professor in Hydraulic Engineering, The University of Queensland, School of Civil Engineering, Brisbane QLD 4072, Australia

Flood flow in urbanised areas constitutes a major hazard to the population and infrastructure as seen during the summer 2010-2011 floods in Queensland (Australia). Flood flows in urban environments have been studied relatively recently, although no study considered the impact of turbulence in the flow. During the 12-13 January 2011 flood of the Brisbane River, some turbulence measurements were conducted next to Brisbane's central business district (CBD) at relatively high frequency (50 Hz). The properties of the sediment flood deposits were characterised and the acoustic Doppler velocimeter unit was calibrated to obtain both instantaneous velocity components and suspended sediment concentration in the same sampling volume with the same temporal resolution. While the measured flow motion was subcritical, the water elevations and velocities fluctuated with a distinctive period between 50 and 80 s. The low frequency fluctuations were linked with some local topographic effects: i.e, some local choke induced by an upstream constriction between stairwells caused some slow oscillations with a period close to the natural sloshing period of the car park. The instantaneous velocity data were analysed using a triple decomposition, and the same triple decomposition was applied to the water depth, velocity flux, suspended sediment concentration and suspended sediment flux data. The velocity fluctuation data showed a large energy component in the slow fluctuation range. For the first two tests at z = 0.35 m, the turbulence data suggested some isotropy. At z = 0.083 m, on the other hand, the findings indicated some flow anisotropy. The suspended sediment concentration (SSC) data presented a general trend with increasing SSC for decreasing water depth. During the flood recession, some long -period oscillations were observed with a period about 18 minutes. The cause of these oscillations remains unknown to the authors. The flow in the car park appeared to be disconnected from the main channel. Overall the flow conditions at the sampling sites corresponded to a specific momentum between 0.2 to 0.4 m2 which would be near the upper end of the scale for safe evacuation of individuals in flooded areas. But the authors do not believe the evacuation of individuals in Gardens Point Road would have been safe because of the intense water surges and flow turbulence. More generally any criterion for safe evacuation solely based upon the flow velocity, water depth or specific momentum cannot account for the hazards caused by the flow turbulence, water depth fluctuations and water surges.