Texas counties mapped before Harvey (ORNL)

Satellite data gives responders baseline for recovery efforts

To help with response and recovery efforts after September's hurricanes, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a method that leverages satellite imaging data from extremely specific local areas to help response teams assess properties damaged by the storms.

ORNL geospatial experts used high-resolution satellite and aerial image data to extract building outlines and roadways in areas prone to flooding. That information, said the lab, provided preliminary building and structure data for recovery efforts that would have been difficult to obtain after a flood because the water tends to obscure and modify structures.

Harvey was particularly nasty, forcing 13,000 floodwater rescues across the state and displacing an estimated 30,000 people. The Texas Department of Public Safety said that more than 185,000 homes were damaged and 9,000 destroyed in that storm.

The images and data were used by federal and local emergency responders alike, Mark Tuttle, an ORNL geography and computer mapping scientist, said in an email.

"The techniques and processes we are using are focused on rapid detection of structures under nearly any circumstances," said Tuttle. He explained that ahead of the storm's approach, researchers used the most recent images of the areas for their analysis.

For Harvey, the lab analyzed almost 2,000 images that spanned nearly 26,000 square miles of building structures in Texas' coastal counties in just 24 hours, a process that would typically take up to nine months.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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