Hurricane Charley was the most severe wind storm to strike the U.S. since 1992. Making landfall on August 13, 2004 at 4 p.m. ET, 145 mph winds devastated the Florida coastal cities of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, and 10 ft. high waves wreaked havoc on nearby barrier islands. In the hours following, a Presidential disaster declaration was issued for twenty-five counties in the impacted region. The event resulted in the loss of at least 27 lives, and caused more than $15.4 billion of damage.
This event is the first Category 4 hurricane for which "before" and "after" satellite imagery was available from very high-resolution systems, such as Quickbird and IKONOS. From a scientific perspective, it therefore offers a unique opportunity to investigate the use of remote sensing for post-disaster urban damage assessment, technology which has the potential for improving the effectiveness of disaster response activities.
In order to validate building damage characteristics identified on the satellite imagery, corresponding ground-based observations are required. There is a narrow time window for documenting the building and infrastructure damage from extreme windstorm events, as clean-up operations are typically initiated as soon as possible. Through funding from the National Science Foundation Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) program and the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center Quick Response program, two field reconnaissance trips have been conducted by ImageCat in conjunction with the Wind Science Research and Engineering (WISE) Research Center at Texas Tech, to collect perishable damage data using the VIEWS (Visualizing Impacts of Earthquakes With satellites) system, which was developed by ImageCat through funding from MCEER. It is envisioned that the data collected will ultimately form the basis of research activities extending the application of post-disaster damage assessment methodologies and algorithms developed for earthquakes to multiple hazards. This research will result in significant advances for windstorm engineering.
At the invitation of Janet Benini, Director of Response and Planning at the White House, ImageCat’s Remote Sensing Group Leader and MCEER researcher Dr. Beverley Adams traveled to Washington D.C. this past September to present post-disaster damage detection research and a field data collection system to the Homeland Security Council.
The distinguished audience, which included White House staffers and senior professionals from Federal agencies such as NASA, DHS, DOE and USACE, heard about the recent use of very high-resolution Quickbird satellite imagery in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley and Ivan and the Bam, Iran, earthquake. Dr. Adams went on to describe the accompanying deployment of the VIEWS system for in-field damage mapping.
Dr. Adams was joined by Dr. Kathleen Tierney, Director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, who directs MCEER’s Response and Recovery program, which funds ImageCat’s post-disaster research activities, and Ron Eguchi, the President and CEO of ImageCat.