Rapid tools for the prediction of the spatial distribution of flood depths within inundated areas are necessary when the implementation of complex hydrodynamic models is not possible due to time constraints or lack of data. For example, similar tools may be extremely useful to obtain first estimates of flood losses in the aftermath of an event, or for large-scale river basin planning. This paper presents RAPIDE, a new GIS-based tool for the estimation of the water depth distribution that relies only on the perimeter of the inundation and a digital terrain model. RAPIDE is based on a spatial interpolation of water levels, starting from the hypothesis that the perimeter of the flooded area is the locus of points having null water depth. The interpolation is improved by (i) the use of auxiliary lines, perpendicular to the river reach, along which additional control points are placed and (ii) the possibility to introduce a mask for filtering interpolation points near critical areas. The reliability of RAPIDE is tested for the 2002 flood in Lodi (northern Italy), by comparing the inundation depth maps obtained by the rapid tool to those from 2D hydraulic modelling. The change of the results, related to the use of either method, affects the quantitative estimation of direct damages very limitedly. The results, therefore, show that RAPIDE can provide accurate flood depth predictions, with errors that are fully compatible with its use for river-basin scale flood risk assessments and civil protection purposes.
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