Remote sensing research improves hurricane response

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Aerial views of Florida before and after Hurricane Michael. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Safe and uninterrupted road travel is essential in the aftermath of storms so that people can access medical care, downed power lines can be removed and communities can begin to return to normal.

Researchers at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering’s Center for Resilient Infrastructure and Disaster Response (RIDER) are studying better ways to predict where road-clogging debris will be worst after tropical cyclones. Their last article was published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Eren Ozguven, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and Director of the RIDER Center
Eren Ozguven, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and Director of the RIDER Center

“This research is especially relevant as hurricane season approaches, as it reminds us that we need a variety of tools to properly respond to these storms,” ​​said Eren Ozguven, RIDER Center director and author. main of the article. “This paper describes an important tool and applies it to disasters in the Florida Panhandle.”

Researchers used satellite images to measure the amount of vegetation in Bay County, Florida before and after two tropical storms and three hurricanes, including Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that devastated the county in 2018 This gave them an estimate of how much vegetation debris these storms caused and where the debris was heaviest. They were able to correlate the debris measurements with factors such as wind speed, initial amount of vegetation, and pavement density.

The researchers found that the debris was heavier in suburban and urban areas, which have a high density of people and roads, compared to rural areas. Although vegetation is not the only type of debris caused by a hurricane, it is an important predictor of where roads will be blocked.

The researchers aim to develop a tool that gives emergency management planners an estimate of debris storms likely to generate – allowing officials to plan, for example, where to position trucks and collection areas ahead of storms.

Tarek Abichou, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and Executive Director of the RIDER Center
Tarek Abichou, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and Executive Director of the RIDER Center

“The sooner you can remove debris from the pavement, the better off you will be in terms of getting back to normal after a hurricane hits,” said paper co-author Tarek Abichou, professor of civil and environmental engineering. at FAMU-FSU College. of Engineering.

In addition to understanding where to position resources before a storm, officials can use satellite imagery after a hurricane to quickly and inexpensively get an idea of ​​post-storm damage before deploying first responders.

The work is part of RIDER’s efforts to use remote sensing technology to solve civil engineering problems.

“Engineering is about finding solutions despite obstacles, and hurricanes throw up all kinds of obstacles,” Abichou said. “Improving our ability to use remote sensing to prepare for and recover from storms will help us overcome these challenges.”

Former FAMU-FSU College of Engineering PhD student Alican Karaer was the lead author of the paper. Co-authors were Mingyang Chen from Harbin Institute of Technology; Mahyar Ghorbanzadeh, former PhD student at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering; and Michele Gazzea and Reza Arghandeh from the Western Norwegian University of Applied Sciences.

This article was supported by the National Science Foundation Coastlines and Peoples Prize (CoPe) 1940319.


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