10.1 Using GIS for Automated Near Real-time Storm Surge Inundation Mapping and Visualization for the Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, 14 January 2016: 1:30 PM
Room 255/257 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Amanda M. Weigel, Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL; and D. Gallagher and R. Griffin

The United States Gulf of Mexico has been hit by some of the most destructive hurricanes in recorded history causing tremendous damage and fatalities. Of the hurricane hazards, storm surge poses the greatest threat to life and property as it can span hundreds of miles of coastline with enough destructive power to destroy buildings, erode beaches, damage critical infrastructure, and cause loss of life. With current climate projections foreseeing a rise in sea level and hurricane activity, there is a need to improve coastal resilience, which is the ability a community can recover proceeding a hazardous event. GIS has begun to play a critical role in disaster preparedness, response, and mitigation as it has the ability to enhance data viewing and analysis using a multi-layer approach. Currently, GIS is used in both government and private industry applications to enhance disaster planning, risk assessments, and map reported storm damages, however, there is a need for a near real-time solution to map potentially inundated areas from storm surge.

This research conducted with Baron outlines the capability of utilizing GIS to create an automated, near real-time application for mapping potential storm surge inundation and the vulnerability of coastal communities located along the Gulf of Mexico. High resolution coastal topographic data, NOAA Probabilistic Storm Surge model outputs, and the NOAA Census tract level Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) were combined to map both potential flood inundation heights and population vulnerability. The program was automated through a GIS framework written within a Python programming environment, and displayed in an Application Program Interface (API) allowing users to interactively assess potential storm surge risks. The goal of this work was to develop a more accurate and detailed method for visualizing areas at high risk of storm surge flooding for emergency response at a near real-time basis, while providing the public with a better understanding of how flood waters will affect their livelihoods. This methodology successfully provides an automated means of mapping high resolution storm surge inundation and vulnerability that National Weather Service forecasters and emergency responders can use to enhance decision making and the communication of threatening weather information to the public.

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