WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Surveying the Aftermath

Posted September 16, 2008

In the wake of Ike's passage onto the Texas coastline this past weekend, we've all seen the news coverage of flooding, damaged homes, skyscrapers with blown-out glass and people unable to return to check on the status of the residences or beach homes that they left behind until there is some restoration of public safety services and utilities.

We've gotten a couple of inquiries as to whether satellite images of the affected area could help residents or long-distance beach home owners check on how their own property fared. While the typical satellite imagery available through weather forecasting channels is not suitable for that kind of inquiry, there is a an alternative source of detailed imagery that I wanted to make everyone aware of here. The National Geodetic Survey has, for several years now, established rapid-response digital aerial photographic surveys of areas struck by serious tropical cyclones (as far back as our own Isabel in 2003), and they make these highly detailed photos available through an "Emergency Response Imagery" web page. The page is located at


For each storm there is a nested series of maps containing image location boxes. Upon choosing a particular image, an enlarged thumbnail of that area is shown, and that image can then be expanded to full size, which in many cases presents a very detailed top-down view. To illustrate for Ike, I've attached a copy of the overview image for an area encompassing some of the beaches on the east side of Galveston, along with two cropped portions of the full-size image that illustrate both the detail available and, unfortunately in this case, the level of damage in that area (around Crystal Beach), which is very evident in terms of debris and in the way of beach homes that simply aren't there anymore.



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