GIS Technology Saves Lives in Hurricane Sandy

As Hurricane Sandy begins to hit the East Coast hard, GIS technology tracks the so-called “Frankenstorm.”

The National Weather Service issued advisories, forecasts, and warnings on the tropical storm. In response to the category-1 hurricane from Virginia to Massachusetts, the GIS specialists have created various maps to help citizens survive the storm and show its effects on Halloween.  These maps are helping weathermen and mariner professionals deal with the outcomes of the storm.

The more technical maps from the National Weather Service offer graphics that show probabilities of sustained surface wind speeds and cumulative probabilities that wind speeds of at least 39 mph will occur during cumulative time periods at each specific point on the map. While the professional weather advisors will use these maps to make informed decisions on the ground, several GIS technology firms have created interactive maps to help civilians survive.

Google Maps

Google was expected to launch its new LG Nexus 4 smartphone and Samsung Nexus 10 tablet October 29, but canceled the New York event and has shifted the company’s focus to a live crisis map that tracks the storm. It gives Hurricane Sandy’s current location, forecast track, three-day forecast, radar, storm surge probability, cloud imagery, webcam and YouTube videos, public alerts and even traffic conditions.

From Google: A new crisis map with several Hurricane Sandy–related layers, including current and forecasted locations, courtesy of NOAA-National Hurricane Center; cloud and wind information; and public alerts featuring emergency information like evacuation routes. As the team identifies additional information, they’ll be updating the map.”

Esri Maps of Hurricane Sandy

Esri has created more than 40 maps (view the map gallery) to assist with Hurricane Sandy, covering everything from the World Hydro Basemap to Atria Senior Living effects of the storm.

The New York City Evacuation map shows current evacuation zones and shelters throughout the city with real-time social media posts. Considering the Associated Press reports this may be more damaging than the 1991 storm dubbed “perfect storm,” and these maps might very well save lives.

The quick and widespread use of GIS technology in hurricanes is also a subtle reminder of why pursuing an online GIS master’s degree is a valuable investment. You might just be the next person to create a map to help save a community.

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Collaborating between technology and informatics "Bytes", American Sentinel's technology blog, addresses topics affecting the information technology, health care and informatics industries, highlighting changes and analysis on the technology industry.
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