Point of Beginning

Editor's Points

October 1, 2005


On August 29, the Gulf Coast experienced a very rude awakening when Hurricane Katrina made landfall at 6:10 a.m. CT. The rich European and American influences of New Orleans, Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala.-to name a few of the hard-hit cities-are now forever changed. For hundreds of years, these historical coastal cities have offered much for their residents and tourists-and they are sure to pick up the pieces. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have, for the time, experienced a setback, but some say a setback is all it is.

Fortunately, there are ample stories of uplift-many in the arena of geomatics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Geodetic Survey agency is continually evaluating the elevation of evacuation routes (see "Protecting the Bayou State") and combining LiDAR with aerial satellite imagery to create aerial maps. These maps aid in search and rescue missions, and with removal of water in the region-and will doubtless be used in future emergency situations. Federal interagencies including the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among numerous others, have joined forces to assist response teams in various ways. The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to provide equipment and personnel for food and water supply, to remove debris and to transport people located through "geo-addressing," using latitude and longitude coordinates. Laser scanning is being applied to offshore platforms, and will most assuredly be applied to numerous surveying jobs when those contracts are in full swing.

GIS? You knew it would come into play. Yes, GIS has aided search and rescue efforts through translation of addresses into GPS coordinates for the U.S. Coast Guard. GIS has helped to develop a missing persons report and database. With GIS, responders are well aware of water treatment plants and the like that could not be easily located otherwise. And of course GIS professionals have generated maps used by every individual and team scouting out power outages and the location of road closures.

And while the death tolls unfortunately rise in the storm-torn areas, and while pumps drain contaminated water from the cities at a magnificent rate (one report cited the equivalent of 432 Olympic-sized pools of water per hour), and while the media outlets report on the uprise of finger-pointers at members and agencies of the political arena, there are still those to care for. While the Bush administration, specific government agencies, and even cities, counties and parishes field blame and complaints from those who believe the rescue efforts have not been fast or strong enough, those affected by the disaster look to their loved ones, their faiths and the help of strangers to get through the horror and heartache of losing this battle to Mother Nature.

POB wants to help as well. In addition to our parent company donating several thousand dollars to the American Red Cross-Hurricane 2005 Relief Fund, we at POB have concentrated on the specific individuals of the surveying and mapping industries.

We have established an online repository of resources for those affected by the hurricane. (Click HERE to access our "Hurricane Katrina: Special Report and References.") This bank includes information on jobs available for Katrina survivors, free tuition for surveying/geomatics students in Montana (thus far, as of mid-September), the Land Surveyors and Mappers Relief Fund set up through the National Society of Professional Surveyors Foundation and Surveying Zone, and the NSPS Foundation Disaster Relief Fund. We will update this page as new information becomes available. We have also added a category to RPLS.com called "Natural Disasters" where posters to our industry bulletin board can share thoughts, ideas and news.

We at POB hope, with the utmost dedication to this industry, that those displaced will remain safe and supplied as they put the pieces of their lives together. We look forward to sharing more success stories about how surveying and mapping technology, supplies and personnel have made a difference in rebuilding the storm-torn areas of the Gulf Coast-and in rebuilding lives.

If you have a story about surviving Hurricane Katrina, or helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina, send it to me at hohnerl@bnpmedia.com.