Prepare by Learning - 48 Days After Hurricane Katrina
Other Autodesk efforts post-Katrina are detailed in this AECWeekly article.
A special edition publication published by The Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (EIGS) highlights how geospatial technology is being used in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for rescue, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. The publication features articles, information and images focusing on how Mississippi's geospatial cluster addressed the challenge of recovery and rebuilding and provided immediate GIS assistance to emergency responders.
It makes one wonder how such a disaster might have been handled before there was GIS and GPS because GIS played a such significant role in the disaster response to Hurricane Katrina. Many GIS vendors joined in to help the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association's (URISA) GISCorps in their effort to recruit GIS volunteers who could provide mapping and other services for the State of Mississippi. Volunteers established a GIS infrastructure at the Mississippi State Emergency Operations Center and provided support for rescue and recovery efforts for Mississippi.
GISCorps has done a good job of noting just what GIS was used for during the response and recovery effort:
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters used GPS coordinates provided by volunteer staff to evacuate people from flooded homes. Because streets were flooded and addresses unavailable from boat or helicopter, volunteers took phone calls from people requesting evacuations and addresses and other landmarks were converted into coordinates that rescue staff could use to locate people. GIS volunteers translated hundreds of addresses/locations into GPS coordinates for the U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter evacuation missions.
GIS maps were used for overall situational awareness for incident commanders and other decision makers at state and county emergency command centers and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) as well as the Governor and the President of the United States. GIS was also used to make the customized street search and rescue maps used by first responders and emergency staff on the ground.
Because of the magnitude of the disaster, situational awareness maps spanned areas such as power outage/restoration; cell phone coverage as towers came back online; areas of potential flooding; road closures and access; locations of aid and comfort facilities such as shelters, kitchens, and water and ice distribution points; command and control areas for the National Guard; the Federal Emergency Management Agency declarations for aid eligibility; environmentally hazardous sites; the location of public infrastructure such as electric substations; and the location of medical care facilities.
“Our first project was in response to the tsunami disaster,” says Shoreh Elhami, GISCorps cofounder and chairperson, in a recent press release. “With each new project, more and more volunteers are coming on board and doing tremendous work. I think the response to Hurricane Katrina is another example of this type of overwhelming response by the GIS community. It makes me feel proud of the profession that we are in.”
The combined effort of several organizations and agencies provided maps and analysis including GISCorps, Geospatial Information and Technology Association (GITA), ESRI, Leica Geosystems, and volunteers from Mississippi agencies and the state education system.
Elhami said that the GISCorps volunteers continue to help onsite.
Because so much depended upon proximity in this and other disasters, geospatial information was of utmost importance. The development of spatial portals or Web launch sites, has given rise to a whole new way to manage, store, share, find, and use information. The portals link information providers with information users. December 2004 saw the rapid launch of a portal providing news, maps, data and links relating to the Asian tsunami, by the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC). Additionally the PDC launched the Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean Tsunami Response Map Viewer, a mapping application and map service that provides users with high resolution satellite imagery, damage maps and other geospatial information related to impact.
In response to Hurricane Katrina, ESRI has created a new web application using ArcWeb Services technology, the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Viewer, to provide detailed information about areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The web application includes continually updated information on weather, population density, damaged area imagery, DOQQ imagery and much more.
Users can request and view maps online, access and download printable maps or digital displays that can be inserted into other documents such as PowerPoint presentations. It's also possible to customize the maps with additional information or adding points of interest.
The data presented in the viewer is provided directly by public and commercial organizations such as FEMA and the U.S. Postal Service, Geodata.gov Hurricane Community Pages and also GlobeXplorer, Tele Atlas and Meteorlogix.
The Red Cross is using ESRI GIS technology to be able to do mapping and analysis that is based on need or request. This technology includes computer mapping, spatial analysis and web services that have helped the Red Cross provide people with housing, shelter, clothing, medical care and food. The technology is being used at all levels of the Red Cross: from the senior level staff in Washington, D.C. to those manning local command centers.
ESRI's Washington, D.C., office worked to quickly expand and extend the existing Red Cross GIS platform while ESRI specialists at the Redlands, California, headquarters worked with Red Cross personnel to develop a Shelter Locator ArcWeb Services application that provides information such as address, capacity, population, and other descriptors available to both internal Red Cross staff as well as the public.
The Red Cross was able to use ArcGIS Desktop to calculate what was happening at various locations while the hurricanes were moving across the land, and prior to the hurricanes' landfall for placing personnel, equipment and supplies. After the hurricanes, the solution was used to assess damage, create GIS-generated hurricane wind field maps, and maps and reports showing how many people had been affected by the storm.
The Red Cross is also using imagery from DigitalGlobe to support response and reconstruction efforts by front-line responders and command-center groups.
High-Resolution Satellite Imagery
DigitalGlobe's Katrina Gallery displays the work of their QuickBird satellite imagery which is being used to support several relief efforts in response to Hurricane Katrina. Satellite collection with QuickBird included 60-centimeter resolution imagery of New Orleans on August 31, just two days after Katrina struck and again on September 3, just one week later. Imagery was also collected over Bilox, Mississippi and surrounding areas. We are all quite familiar with these images by now as they have been widely distributed, but imagery collected over the same regions in March 2004 were useful in comparing the landscape and infrastructure of the region before and after the hurricane.
DigitalGlobe provided imagery to San Diego State University (SDSU) who is partnering with the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) to aid relief efforts in impacted regions, and ImageCat teamed with Risk Management Solutions (RMS) to map wind, storm surge and flooding damage resulting from the hurricane.
According to the press release, SDSU's Viz Center and Calit2 used the imagery initially to assess the damage and support clean-up efforts by putting together a regional situational awareness campaign for the detailed damage to infrastructure and personal property. Other uses for the imagery include estimating impacts on public health due to water volume, damaged infrastructure and storm debris. Displayed as Web-based interactive maps, the imagery supports initiatives by the National Institute of Urban Search and Rescue (NIUSR) to assist with the recovery effort by integrating location information about housing and people.
Like many organizations, SDSU was behind the creation of an online clearinghouse which houses imagery and geospatial data related to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. This is another one of those clearinghouses that can be accessed by most people - all they have to do is type in a street address and view satellite imagery of the chosen area.
ImageCat and the RMS catastrophe response team used QuickBird imagery and ImageCat's hand-held VIEWS reconnaissance system to map and assess damage caused by wind, storm surge and flooding in New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region. ImageCat flew an airplane over the region one day after the hurricane made landfall and recorded the damage using ImageCat's VIEWS field data collection and visualization system. Geo-referenced video and still photographs recorded the initial storm flooding and subsequent breaking of the levees. With this information, ImageCat then mapped the flooding in New Orleans using DigitalGlobe's satellite imagery, used the VIEWS visualization mode for damage assessment and loss estimates, and provided RMS with storm surge damage maps for the Mississippi coast.
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