The Charlotte, North Carolina metropolitan area has experienced extensive urban and suburban growth and sharply increasing trends in the magnitude and frequency of flooding. The hydraulics and hydrology of flood response in the region are examined through a combination of numerical modeling studies and diagnostic analyses of paired discharge observations from upstream-downstream gaging stations. The regional flood response is shown to strongly reflect urbanization effects, which increase flood peaks and decrease response times, and geologically controlled attenuating reaches, which decrease flood peaks and increase lag times. Attenuating reaches are characterized by systematic changes in valley bottom geometry and longitudinal profile. The morphology of the fluvial system is controlled by the bedrock geology, with pronounced changes occurring at or near contacts between intrusive igneous and metamorphic rocks. Analyses of wave celerity and flood peak attenuation over a range of discharge values for an 8.3 km valley bottom section of Little Sugar Creek are consistent with Knight and Shiono's characterization of the variation of flood wave velocity from in-channel conditions to valley bottom full conditions. The cumulative effect of variation in longitudinal profile, expansions and contractions of the valley bottom, floodplain roughness and sub-basin flood response is investigated using a two-dimensional, depth-averaged, finite element hydrodynamic model coupled with a distributed hydrologic model. For a 10.1 km stream reach of Briar Creek, with drainage area ranging from 13 km(2) at the upstream end of the reach to 49 km(2) at the downstream end, it is shown that flood response reflects a complex interplay of hydrologic and hydraulic processes on hillslopes and valley bottoms. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.