I’m a recovering scientist managing a remote sensing group at the NOAA Coastal Services Center. In my spare time, when I’m not torturing staff, I try to fit in some technical work on lidar processing and distribution.
Submitted by Kirk Waters on October 31, 2012
Hurricane Sandy has given the East Coast quite a wallop. As emergency management and other organizations try to get a handle on the extent of the problem and as a nation we begin to patch ourselves up, we thought it might be useful to provide some of the geospatially oriented information that might be relevant. I plan to update this as we get more information, it certainly isn't all encompassing yet.
Satellite and airborne imagery are often critical to understanding the spatial extent and severity of an event. The National Geodetic Survey should be up flying today (Halloween) and will be posting their georeferenced imagery on NOAA's Emergency Response Imagery page. The Civilian Air Patrol has already flown and posted images from hand-held cameras (not georeferenced) at these links: October 30 part 1, October 30 part 2, October 31 part 1, and October 31 part 2. There is sure to be more data from them and others that lands on the USGS Hazards Data Distribution System, though some data may require a login to access.
Pre-event imagery can be found on a number of web sites. If all you need is quick access to a general view and don't need to get your hands on the actual data or need information on horizontal accuracy, the services provided by Google and Bing may be exactly what you need. If you need access to the imagery for download, there are a few potential sources, but I'd recommend the USGS National Map viewer.
Damage assessment information may take some time to come in and be compiled in a comprehensive manner after a major event. While the damage from Sandy was not expected to be primarily wind damage, there may be some use in looking at the wind analysis of the storm available from NOAA's Hurricane Research Division. Comprehensive assessments of the damage will take some time, but there are a number of first look assessments you can find covering various scales. One good one I've found is from the New York Times and provides a broad look at a good sized geography. Of course, the FEMA Disaster and Emergency Declarations are another good place to look and include a number of geospatial formats to help you pull in the data (map services, shapefiles, kmz, WMS, etc.).
Knowing where the environmentally sensitive areas are so you can match them up with what's known about Sandy's path, water, and wind fields can be important. The Office of Response and Restoration puts out Environmental Sensitivity Index maps that can help you do this.
Erosion is always an issue with large storms such as Sandy. The imagery mentioned earlier is certainly a fast way to see where the impacts to the shoreline may have been. Getting volumetric estimates of the change and impacts is probably best done with lidar data. Recent pre-storm data was collected by the USACE/JALBTCX team in 2010 for the Sandy area and is available on line through the Digital Coast Data Access Viewer. If you can work with LAZ point data files, you can also get direct access to the data. You'll find subdirectories there that should be reasonably clear. Shapefiles are in the subdirectories with a tile index. If you need to convert the LAZ files to LAS, you'll need the laszip tool freely available from LASTools.
I expect someone will be collecting post-storm lidar data along the coast. This is often USACE/JALBTCX or USGS and they coordinate on who is doing what. I'll let you know the plan as soon as I hear. In any case, the data generally takes a bit of time to collect and process.
This was a quick write-up of what I know about so far and I'm expecting to add more and fix whatever errors I may have done.