• Enhancement of the NWS Storm Damage Assessment Toolkit with Earth Remote Sensing Data
Program Disasters Program
PI / Institution Gary J. Jedlovec / MSFC
Start Date October 1, 2012
End Date September 30, 2013
  • Summary

    In the wake of severe weather events, the National Weather Service (NWS) needs to acquire detailed, highly perishable data necessary for conducting post-event analysis. The process requires the rapid deployment of trained teams to gather damage evidence (e.g., storm debris damage patterns) that can be used to accurately identify and describe the event. While this is still a labor-intensive process, the hand-held Storm Damage Assessment Toolkit (SDAT) is being developed to integrate damage information and photographs collected by the survey team within a geographic information system (GIS). This information is used to increase knowledge of extreme events, improve NWS warning programs, and provide accurate damage information to disaster managers, the news media and academia. During the damage assessment process, NWS officials travel to damage sites to collect storm damage information which is later used to prepare detailed assessment reports. Traditionally, storm survey sites are chosen based upon weather radar imagery and storm reports gathered from emergency managers and storm spotters. Radar imagery provides likely locations of severe weather but cannot precisely determine damage locations due to spatial and temporal resolution limitations. Also, certain radar signatures, such as storm rotation, do not always mean that damage is occurring at the surface. In a similar manner, storm damage reports from emergency managers and storm spotters will often only reflect point, or small area locations. Thus, part of the responsibility of the damage assessment surveyors is to connect the dots between radar evidence and storm reports. Ground surveys are limited by the existing road network, which may be relatively sparse in rural locations, and obstructions to the road network due to storm damage may also offer logistical problems for the storm survey process. Aerial surveys are infrequent and are usually reserved for outbreaks and major events. Therefore, it is helpful for storm surveyors to have other means within their toolkit to aid the storm damage survey process. High resolution satellite imagery offers potential utility in gathering storm damage data, where other pre-existing tools may be inadequate. For example, where road networks are limited, high resolution satellite imagery will allow surveyors to make better assessments of damage paths, which includes the determination of beginning and ending points, and whether paths of damage are continuous. In addition, the satellite imagery can offer superior utility in determining deployment locations of survey teams, since road networks may be overlain on satellite imagery and routes can be planned accordingly. Phase I of this study will examine the feasibility of developing an enhanced Storm Damage Assessment Toolkit (SDAT) to facilitate the collection, integration, and distribution of storm damage information from high resolution satellite and aerial photography data and integrate it into the NWS decision making process. The feasibility study will focus on identifying unique products derived from remote sensing data which will help delineate storm damage regions from un-affected areas, examining the functionality of web mapping services to distribute decision-making resources, identifying the modifications needed to improve the integration of remote sensing data and products in the existing SDAT, and demonstrating the utility of additional interactive display capabilities to aid the end user decision-making process. It is the intent of the follow-on stage 2 activity to implement the enhanced SDAT capabilities across a broad region of the NWS.