In the few days that follow a natural disaster, especially a hurricane, it is vital to have correct diagnostic information about the affected land in order to initiate an appropriate relief response. In the last 10 years, development of light detection and ranging technology, or lidar, has developed into a huge asset that can provide high resolution, high accuracy data about the terrain.
In 2002, elevation data was collected for southern Louisiana by the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s office. This data was created into a map that served as the starting point to calculate the extent and depth of water inundation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Using flood water gauges, the elevation of water and the floodwater volume were estimated by comparing elevations from the 2002 base map, which were later verified with aerial photography several years later.
By using highly detailed topographic data paired with real-time gauge data, a map of inundation can be analyzed quickly and efficiently to provide adequate response to the disaster. It also serves as a historic database for future natural disaster response teams and analysis. Lidar is valuable to spacial detail and mapping data, but also recovery efforts to restore land and urban areas that have been affected by a disaster.
Gesch, D. (2005). Topography-based analysis of Hurricane Katrina inundation of New Orleans. Science and the Storms: the USGS Response to the Hurricanes of, 53-56.
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