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Hurricane Damage Analyzed with Airborne Lidar

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Category 4 Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida’s Lee County on Sept. 28, 2022, battering the region with wind speeds of 155 miles per hour and storm surge up to 13 feet – the highest storm surge documented in Southwest Florida in the past 150 years. In the aftermath of a disaster, rapidly assessing hurricane damage is critical for rescue, recovery and emergency planning. Damage assessments are typically conducted through field reconnaissance deployments, which can be labor-intensive, costly and risky. Moreover, field-based emergency response assessments can be hindered by delays and other setbacks due to the severity of the damage and the inability to access the hardest hit areas.

From Eurekalert.org

Using remote sensing technology, Florida Atlantic University researchers have developed a novel technique that provides rapid, high-resolution assessments of detailed damage after a hurricane. Using aerial imagery data and LiDAR, they identified the hardest-hit areas of Southwest Florida’s Estero Island and estimated the extent of structural damage. Researchers also compared pre- and post-storm structural or morphological changes to the beach. The study is the first to apply an advanced multi-faceted approach that links damage assessment to post-storm change in the structure of barrier islands.

Results of the study, published in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, identified a total of 2,427 structures on Estero Island that were impacted by Hurricane Ian, with 170 structures suffering extensive damage. A single store was the only structure in the study area classified as “not affected.”

Using data from the Lee County tax appraiser, researchers estimated the total assessed value of the heavily damaged structures at more than $200 million.

Overall, 734 buildings had 30 to 50 percent structural damage, the majority of which were single-family and multi-unit residences. Researchers identified 158 buildings that were severely damaged with partial or complete roof failure.

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