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Hurricane Sandy Mapping

Over the past few years with the advent of crowdsourced data for humanitarian crisis mapping, there have been both significant performance advancements as well as numerous disaster episodes by which to ‘test’ these advancements. Platforms & organizations such as Google Crisis Response, the Ushahidi platform, Crisis Mappers Network , Havard’s Crisis Mapping and Early Warning program, Open Street Map and Frontline SMS all have made significant strides in the emerging field of crisis mapping via crowdsourced data.

[Source: Google] 

In the NY Region, Hurricane Sandy put interactive crisis mapping to the test, and some of the most relevant platforms are still up and running with data that reflects relief efforts in the areas most effected by the storm, notably regions along NJ, Brooklyn and Long Island coastal extents. A looming challenge now becomes vulnerable populations relative to insurance companies, utlities providers, mortgage holders, DOB, FEMA and the government at large. Significant questions remain: Who establishes priorities of cleanup; how is real property to be dealt with from various sharehholder perspectives; how will insurance companies organize coverage policies going forward and how will governmental agencies prioritize and distribute limited monies and materials to affected communities.

In regards to mapping and humanitarian crisis, Hurricane Sandy presents an unique situation where real property is highly organized across buildings, tax lots and blocks; and populations across census blocks, community board and various administrative and utilitiy boundaries. In short, the NY region does not present a ‘typical’ relief effort scenario where significant mapping efforts need to occur simply to establish ground conditions. Here those conditions come ‘preformed’, and who has access to information and how to best organize that information will go some way to establishing the narrative and locations of power in the months to come.

To follow is a brief roll call of sites and resources that can be utilized to situate and develop GIS related base layers and point data for relief efforts amongst community organizations long after the storm has past.

Many data resources exist within the DCP, via NYC open data. First and foremost, the LION database is critical to geocoding efforts across the boroughs as a signifcant portion of data will be tied to addresses. Less precise than tagging to the Pluto Tax Base, it will allow significant functionality over nonspatial database performance. On the human population data side,certainly the DCP’s hosting of various administrative boundaries is critical, especially linked to American FactFinder derived census data for 2010. NYC’s Open Data portal is also valuable for all available datasets for the NYC area-both nonspatial and spatial.

[Source: NYC DCP] 

[Source: NYC DCP] 

[Source: NYC DCP] 

[Source: NYC DCP] 

For critical buildings related data, ZOLA and PAD are rich data sources, although their performance within a GIS context requires some extra effort. It goes without saying that FEMA has a job on its hands going forward with flood mapping; in the short term the FIRM products will be important base layers for analysis relative to insurance coverage determinations. For crowdsourced mapping, the two platforms that seems to stand relevant at this late date in November include the Google Sandy platform and Occupy Sandy’s resource map for relief efforts which seems to be utilizing MapBox to overlay NOAA imagery. Unfortunately for the most damaged neighborhood’s within NYC region, the Con Ed service outage map will remain a frustrating resource.

Arguably the most valuable data product resulting from the Hurricane event is the NOAA Response Imagery tiles for affected coastal areas- the ‘post’ scenario. They are georeferenced and they are high quality, and importantly they are readily available and free. Together with ‘pre’ scenario tiles from either FEMA fused orthoimagery or the HRO USGS orthoimagery product, damage assessment can be greatly enhanced within the GIS environment without incurring excessive costs.

[Google Crisis Response Map | Sandy, 2012] 

[Occupy Sandy Relief Map] 

[NOAA Sandy Tile Viewer]