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BOX B.1 Creating an Integrated View of the Damage Caused by Hurricane Mitch

Decision makers must know the scope of a disaster, its location, the size of the area it covers, casualty levels, estimates of damage to infrastructure and property, and the ways in which all these factors relate to centers of population concentrations and to jurisdictional boundaries. To Inform response actions, information is needed on possible further damage, options for immediate action, legal responsibilities, and possible long-term effects and related follow-ups.
At the workshop, William Miller described work done in 1998 by the Center for Integration of Natural Disaster Information (CINDI) to prepare a synoptic view of the devastation caused in Central America by Hurricane Mitch. The work was requested by the Department of the Interior as background information in preparation for a visit to the disaster area by Mrs. Tipper Gore.1
A number of products were developed in response to this tasking. CINDI developed overview maps that indicated Mitch's storm track, including the areas struck by 150- to 180-mph winds. Satellite images were used to produce thematic maps with a 30-meter resolution mosaic of Central America and also helped to make clear the magnitude of the damage, revealing, for example, forest cover damage extending far into Mexico. Geographical information system databases that included a variety of remote sensing data were used to determine where roads crossed flooded rivers and thus the extent of damage to the road infrastructure.
Integrating information from a variety of external sources presented a number of challenges. For example, during the course of assembling its briefing materials, the team found that data that had been on the World Wide Web and elsewhere was no longer available. Data sources had been moved or changed as the situation changed, and the team found that establishing an archive to capture data is essential. Another data source the team employed was the Earth Resources Observation Systems data center of the U.S. Geological Survey. However, during the course of the work on Hurricane Mitch, a blizzard delayed staff attempts to reach the center, located in Sioux City, South Dakota, to load and process images.

1These models and data were complied after the fact and were not used to support first responders.

and torrential rains. Warnings must reach people in remote locations and be specific enough to support evacuation of people to safe havens. Optimized evacuation routes would help reduce gridlock. Supplies and shelters must be identified and targeted for specific evacuee groups or individuals. Mutual aid resources must be effectively utilized as they converge from outside the affected area. Appropriate maps and position location aids must be provided to crisis responders so they can operate effectively. Damaged infrastructure must be identified, and repairs must

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