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MCEER Response:
Advanced Technology for Rapid Tornado Damage Assessment Following the ‘Super Tuesday’ Tornado Outbreak of February 2008

By Anneley McMillan, Beverley J. Adams, Amber Reynolds, Tanya Brown, Daan Liang and J. Arn Womble

This field campaign, undertaken in the aftermath of the 2008 ‘Super Tuesday’ tornadoes, was funded by MCEER and Texas Tech University’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center. It presented the team with a unique opportunity to collect geographically located perishable damage data on a per-building level throughout a variety of tornado strengths and environments.
This exploration marks the first tornado event where the VIEWS (Visualizing Impacts of Earthquakes with Satellites) system has been deployed to collect detailed ground survey data for identification and mapping of damage in a wide-ranging area. This use again extends the original aim of the VIEWS system and shows its flexibility for multi-hazard damage detection. Previous studies include the 2003 Bam, Iran earthquake (Adams et al., 2004a), Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Katrina (Adams et al., 2004b, Womble et al. 2006), the Niigata, Japan earthquake in October 2004 (Huyck et al., 2006), the Asian Tsunami of 2004 (Ghosh et al. 2005) and the 2007 California Wildfires (McMillan et al. 2008).

VIEWS was developed by ImageCat through funding from MCEER. The ground-based deployment shows in detail the type of buildings which populate certain areas, the vegetation surroundings, the building materials that survive and other crucial aspects. In some neighborhoods, debris removal, and even rebuilding, had started to occur very soon after the tornado and prior to the arrival of ground-survey teams; it is therefore essential to collect information rapidly to assess the level of damage before this occurs. These quick response deployments occurred within 1 month of the event. It is envisioned that the data collected will form part of a larger research thrust into tornado damage assessment, wind characterization and improving community resilience.

See also:

Images from the Report

aerial view of tornado path

Image courtesy of Geoeye 2008

Figure 6. IKONOS data from Highland Middle School in Arkansas, showing the path of one tornado during the outbreak.

aerial view of tornado path

Image courtesy of Pictometry International 2008

Figure 7. Example of Pictometry data showing before and after footage of one property destroyed by the tornado.

aerial view of tornado path

Figure 18. (a) Damage in the worst hit region of Macon County; (b) Overturned house in Macon County; (c) uprooted trees showing alignment patterns.

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