The Answer Matters: How Connected Are You in Times of Disaster?

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since the magnitude 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake that struck Japan. The earthquake, followed by the tsunami followed by the radiological disaster depict one of the greatest combinations of disasters that we have seen in quite some time.

While we saw news reports of damage, death and destruction, many people did not see the stories of the Japanese people coming together as communities to respond as a people – surviving even without power in the cold.  Disasters over time stress on people, but the power of knowing that you’re not alone is something that can help people overcome almost anything.

We can usually get our minds around one disaster – a tornado, a flood, a hurricane, an earthquake, etc. However when the events cascade and multiple events occur at the same time we end up realizing that it is quite difficult to juggle and respond to several simultaneous events. Continue reading


Tornado Fatailities and the NWS Dual-Polarization Radar Upgrades

One of the fatalities occurred in this area near Jackson Gap. The NWS warnings for this storm were very clear, telling people to “seek shelter underground” and that a debris signature was appearing on radar.

Some people might ask is it worth it to upgrade the National Weather Service (NWS) radars to this “new” dual-pol technology.  While only 25% of the 160 radar sites around the country have been upgraded, the performance in the March 2, 2012 Tornado Outbreak is quite an impressive statement to the effectiveness of the technology.

During the March 2nd tornado outbreak, many of the tornadoes occurred in areas where the radars have already been upgraded.  When the debris was detected by the dual-pole technology, meteorologists could enhance their tornado warnings, confirming that a damaging tornado was indeed on the ground.  These signatures are essentially as good as visually confirmation of the tornadoes being on the ground.  The technology works because when the radar beams hit debris (leaves, shingles, branches, parts of houses, etc), there is a different signature from what is seen by the radar.  In the graphic above, you can see the blue area in a circle.  This area means that the radar is seeing a “different” signature from the surrounding areas.  When this is in the same location as strong rotation as seen by the doppler velocity products, it is essentially a confirmation of a tornado on the ground at the time of the radar sweep, or just before that time.

This will be significant with difficult-to-see tornadoes, especially ones that are either rain-wrapped or occurring in the overnight hours. Continue reading

Mapping the Zombie Apocalypse

What would you do???

When we think of mapping using GIS for disasters and emergencies, we think of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and the like.  When we think of education, we often think of the same old off-the-shelf material from a book that we just take and share thinking we’re teaching.  However in both cases, we miss out on one of the joys of education.  Applying knowledge from one discipline or area to other areas of life…

Many of my followers on Twitter (Follow @emgis on Twitter) and this blog know of the CDC’s preparedness campaign from earlier this year on Zombie Preparedness – “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse“.  However most people who are familiar with the preparedness campaign are from the Social Media for Emergency Management (#SMEM hashtag on Twitter) community.  Most of them are not GIS people and haven’t seen how Geographic Information Systems (#GIS hashtag on Twitter) can improve our preparedness for Zombies (and for other disasters…)  Additionally, the Connected Principals Chat community (#cpchat hashtag on Twitter) could benefit from this post because it provides another way to engage students and parents on a number of levels.  You may not use zombies for important information to share, but please take a look at these examples and think of how you can apply this to your discipline and the content that you find important to share with others.

Enter the Zombie Apocalypse… Continue reading

USGS Twitter Earthquake Dispatch

During the past several years, twitter has seen an incredible spike in usage, broadcasting a number of events that cross cultural, economic, racial, & political lines.  One of thee events where Twitter sees incredible spikes in traffic is during major earthquakes.  Noting this trend, the United States Geological Service (USGS) has created an account @USGSted (USGS Twitter Earthquake Dispatch).  Per the USGS website, USGSted:

“distributes alerts for earthquakes worldwide with magnitudes of 5.5 and above. We may modify this criteria in the future to tweet alerts for more earthquakes of potential interest. @USGSted earthquake tweets contain the magnitude, location, origin time, and a link to the USGS webpage with the most recent information about the event. In addition to the seismically derived parameters, the alerts also include the frequency of tweets in a region surrounding the event that contain the word “earthquake” or its equivalent in several languages. Our observations show these tweets often originate from people who have experienced the shaking effects of the earthquake. After some significant earthquakes, @USGSted will also tweet supplementary information about the event.” Continue reading

The Age of Unnamed Storms is Over

In the meteorological community, hurricanes were given names in the mid 20th century.  In an article earlier this year titled how hurricanes are named, “Names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms,” the World Meteorological Organization explains on its website. “Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness.”

But there are times when storms are not named by official channels.  Continue reading

Resources for SMEM – National Weather Service Products

There are a number of posts on the difficulties of using Social Media to disseminate National Weather Service products, but over the past several years, Iowa State University Department of Agronomy has been able to put together their IEMBOT tool.  IEMBOT messages are accessible in several ways: Continue reading