On Wednesday, October 10, Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm. The storm has left widespread destruction totaling up to an estimated $4.5 billion in property damage, a death toll of 18 people to date, and tens of thousands without homes, electricity and food.
In response, the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC) on Thursday began mobilizing a fleet of aircraft equipped with Vexcel Imaging UltraCam digital aerial camera systems to capture ultra-high-resolution vertical and oblique imagery of impacted areas, beginning at the gulf coastline and moving inland as far as Macon, Ga. The entire collection covers regions in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, and amounts to an area of 84,000-square-kilometers – roughly the size of Austria.
The imagery began appearing in the GIC ArcGIS Online based web map portal as early as Friday, October 12, less than 24 hours from collection, where it was made accessible to GIC member insurers, NOAA, FEMA, Red Cross and first responders involved in ground efforts. Additionally, a public-facing web map is available on the GIC web site, allowing visitors to search for properties and locations, and to compare before and after storm imagery using an on-screens swipe tool.
The GIC is a National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) initiative in partnership with Vexcel Imaging that is focused on building a national database of high-resolution imagery to be used by its member companies that write almost 80 percent of all property/casualty insurance and over 94 percent of all auto insurance in the country, as well as public sector and non-governmental organizations. The Geospatial Intelligence Center has previously mapped the areas hardest hit by hurricanes and disasters, with those views also available through the web map portal. The GIC partners with Esri, a leader in GIS software and services, to leverage its ArcGIS online platform and tools to underpin the GIC web map portal for visualization and exploitation of the imagery.
“Hurricane Michael is the first Category 4 storm in recorded history to make landfall in the northeast Gulf Coast,” said Ryan Bank, founder of the Geospatial Intelligence Center. “Regrettably, it may not be the last. The trend for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters shows a year-over-year increase. In 2017 alone, the U.S. saw more than $300 billion in disaster related costs. The GIC is committed to providing rapid and efficient aerial response to quickly get imagery into the hands of those who can use it to respond to citizens in such times of crisis.”