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Case Study: GIS Makes Surge Risk Graphic for the Land between Two Storms

Louisiana State University has developed an outreach campaign called "The Next Storm Surge...Maps and Models of Projected Hurricane Vulnerability for Iberia Parish." Clearly, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita got the attention of people of south-central Louisiana who dodged two bullets, as they were just west of one killer storm and just east of the other. This LSU effort was aimed at giving these coastal zone residents the tools needed to better understand risks associated with hurricane storm surges.

The initiative consisted of several development efforts that resulted in producing imagery:

  • Determination of high-water marks for Hurricane Rita (Ag field method)
  • Projection of crest elevation flooding onto base maps, showing the Rita experience
  • Creating "What if" scenario maps for 1-, 2-, 3-...8-ft higher flood crest, showing when the local landmarks such as Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Main Library, Sugar Co-op would get wet.
  • Surge modeling of Katrina and Rita, taking paths up-the-middle of the state through Iberia Parish, demonstrating how those higher crests could happen and explaining why the surge trailed the eye by 6-12 hours.

Models and imagery were used to graphically communicate the information at four local events in New Iberia:

  • A Business Preparedness Planning workshop, where free planning kits that were assembled from items donated by local area insurance and business were distributed.
  • The annual hurricane preparedness meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee
  • Two evening meetings for the general public

A poster showing some of the information presented can be viewed here.

The events all took place in the Parkview Branch Library in New Iberia with standing-room only crowds. Turn-out for the general public event was twice the capacity of the room, and the program had to be offered again a week later. As an ongoing aid to area residents, LSU installed ESRI ARC READER software and local LIDAR digital elevation model data on the library computers.

The events also provided an opportunity to distribute LSU AgCenter information on hurricane preparedness, hazard resistant residential construction, and on-site flood protection methods.

Similar events are being planned for Vermilion and St. Mary parishes – hit, but not as catastrophically as the far eastern and western parishes of Louisiana were by Katrina and Rita. LSU is organizing the meetings and producing the modeling and flood graphics that will be relevant for each of these coastal parishes.

LSU contributors to this educational effort: Thomas Hymel, LSU AgCenter Watershed Specialist and Sea Grant agent in Iberia Parish; Hassan Mashriqui, engineer for the LSU Hurricane Center; Paul Kemp and Dane Dartez, also with the Hurricane Center; Barrett Kennedy, John Pine, Jackie Mills, Stephanie Pedro and Jasmine James of the CADGIS Research Lab.

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