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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 22, Number 1, December 2008

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Volume 22, Number 1, December 2008

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VIEWS™ Reconnaissance System Expanded to Investigate Aftermath of Tornadoes and Wildfires

aerial images of wildfires

An image from one area of deployment in San Diego, showing a partially destroyed neighborhood (left). These were mapped and combined with parcel data to show destroyed areas (right).

Over the past year, MCEER’s Remote Sensing Institute has expanded the use of the VIEWS™ system to investigate the aftermath of wildfires and tornadoes. VIEWS™ was developed by ImageCat through funding from MCEER, to provide a method to rapidly collect perishable data in the aftermath of a disaster.

October 2007 California Wildfires

During the 2007 California wildfires, Beverley Adams and Shubharoop Ghosh of ImageCat collaborated with Risk Management Solutions (RMS) to perform a damage assessment of the stricken area. The investigation aimed to collect a benchmark post-disaster dataset, perishable wildfire damage signatures, and vulnerability factors to quantify the efficacy of wildfire mitigation strategies; and methods for measuring, monitoring and evaluating characteristics of post-wildfire recovery.

The VIEWS™ system was used to conduct aerial reconnaissance, which was more effective in capturing real-time regional damage information. Many of the affected areas were obscured by dense smoke for days, making it impossible for satellite imagery to be used to identify burned structures.

To complement the aerial view, a rapid ground-based VIEWS™ deployment was also undertaken. Anneley McMillan of the ImageCat UK team led the ground deployment efforts, which allowed collection of very detailed per-building data in terms of structural types, density of houses, characteristics of the burn, and damage states. It also illustrated a broader view of the environment by recording vegetation type and quality. Alternative damage assessment information from internet sources and responder interviews were also used to develop post-disaster datasets.

The mapping of destroyed and non-destroyed structures has allowed an investigative analysis into correlations between geographical factors and burn pattern. Attributes such as slope angle, aspect and elevation of parcel were examined in relation to burn. Future research involving fire-management techniques is being planned.

The work was also supported by an SGER grant from the National Science Foundation.

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February 2008 Tornadoes

screen shot of a house before and after

Example of pictometry data showing before and after footage of one property destroyed by the tornado.

The 2008 “Super Tuesday” tornado swarm, which struck the mid-western U.S. February 5-6, 2008, presented a unique opportunity to collect geographically located perishable damage data on a per-building level throughout a variety of tornado strengths and environments.

The reconnaissance took place within a month of the occurrence of the tornadoes. The ground-based deployment shows in detail the type of buildings which populate the area, vegetation surroundings, building materials that survived and other crucial aspects. The team followed the tracks of two tornadoes through eight counties.

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The research team included Anneley McMillan and Beverley J. Adams, of ImageCat Ltd. and Amber Reynolds, Tanya Brown, Daan Liang and J. Arn Womble, of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University. They were funded by MCEER and Texas Tech University’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center.