So I’ll talk about this finally. I usually don’t talk about “work” unless it’s in generalities about software and processes. I probably should talk about work more.
I’ve never been in a hurricane. I think so far I’ve been in about a handful of earthquakes, stood on one volcano, and I think I’ve seen one tornado. Not that I’m looking to be in a natural disaster – I just don’t have a frame of reference for what happens during a hurricane or a tornado.
If you flash back to early September 2017 the Caribbean was gearing up for a hurricane and. Turns out two hit close together. I had the chance to work in the US Virgin Islands on an addressing project with AppGeo and Spatial Focus several years ago. It’s been a “wait and see” type of deal. We did a little and watch as red tape and things slow it down. I called a few friends down there before the hurricanes hit and wished them well. Overall – there wasn’t a ton of fear but a lot of concern. I was concerned because the 911 system isn’t great as the addressing isn’t wonderful in the USVI.
My memory is getting fuzzy – but it seems like both hurricanes hit and it was a while before anyone could call/email me. Maybe it was late September or October before the phone rang. They needed help to figure out where the tarps needed to go. FEMA/USACE was headed down to bring tarps and supplies – maybe they were already there. A sneaker net of GIS data had cranked itself up on the island as thumb drives were passed around. I started trying to figure out “what made sense with the base data I had available”. I started digging into what USACE and What FEMA would do if your roof was damaged. More or less if you had 50% of the structure of the roof left they could put a tarp on it. I came up with a plan and contacted AppGeo and they tossed a person my way.
Structures were categorized:
- 1 – 25% Roof Damage
- 26 to 50% Roof Damage
- 51 to 75% Roof Damage
- 76 to 100% Roof Damage
- Structure Destroyed
- No Damage
- No Imagery
NOAA flew imagery of the area. The imagery was a bit rough around the edges but it worked. Actually – let me back up – for what it was it was awesome. Granted it didn’t lend itself to any sort of automatic classification as there was a lot of building lean and some missing imagery. It worked though. That was a great free resource by NOAA.
Hey that’s a lot of points. Yes – 48380 points covering three islands. Granted I didn’t get every house as I had nothing much to start out with except OSM and some USDA NAIP imagery. I would guess I’m within 10% of an accurate building count. Some people have offices/live in shipping containers down there. WHICH – when I was there made me go “awesome” but when looking at the imagery at a shipping container blowing a half mile across a field – not so awesome.
It did give me flash backs to my old remote sensing days with the government. Although this was less refined – it was a game in the afternoons to see how many points I could collect in an hour. Some neighborhoods were easy. Some not so much as there wasn’t much left. The other nice thing that happened was sometime around December I switched over to QGIS 3.0 and started seeing what I could/couldn’t do with this almost released software. Several bug reports were filed so more good came out of this.
The data started making it’s way out to one agency after another. My big fear then was “what if someone uses this beyond ‘roofs'”. I wasn’t doing a full blow damage assessment because I was seeing some evidence that maybe the roof survived but the bottom floors didn’t. Plus I wasn’t on location.
It took me a bit longer to finish than I wanted – Volunteer projects tend to be the last thing I work on most days.
I did start pulling numbers out of some of the work – this is for St John Island:
|1487||1 – 25% Roof Damage||41.42|
|326||26 to 50% Roof Damage||9.08|
|131||51 to 75% Roof Damage||3.65|
|126||76 to 100% Roof Damage||3.51|
So 25% of the houses had no roof damage. 60% had something happen. More or less 15% were leveled. I’ve heard ancillary stories where almost all houses had water coming in them and in a warm tropical climate you get mold. Mold would make the house unusable for me.
Anyway – I worry about the 2018 Hurricane season that is upon us. Maybe it will be quiet – maybe it won’t be. AppGeo has Mapgeo for the islands. It worked out well. I’m going to try to “build” a database here so in case something happens and I’m not starting from scratch in case I get to help out again. I hope I don’t help as nothing happens.