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September Science Picks — Leads, Feeds and Story Seeds
September 2005 Edition on Hurricane Katrina

Released: 9/13/2005

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Denver Makle 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4732

September 2005 Edition on Hurricane Katrina

Learn the latest on how U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science is helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and how its scientific research and capabilities will help prevent vulnerabilities to future natural hazards. This special edition of Science Picks can help you cover the science behind Hurricane Katrina. Photos and Web links are provided to enhance your story.

September Highlights:

  • USGS Technology Helps Locate and Rescue Stranded Victims of Hurricane Katrina
  • USGS Maps Show Where Roads, Levees, and Pipelines Remain in New Orleans
  • Water-level Gage Up and Running in New Orleans
  • Water, Water Everywhere – Flood Forecasting and Control
  • Hurricane Katrina’s Effects on Wildlife
  • View Before and After Photos Depicting Hurricane Katrina’s Impact
  • Scientists Use Radar to Survey Levees and Water Level in Louisiana
  • USGS Videotape Footage of Coastal Impacts of Hurricane Katrina
  • Understanding Flooding and Restoration of Coastal Louisiana
  • Congressional Hazards Caucus/USGS Earthquake Hazards Products
  • Society of Environmental Journalists Conference
  • Earth Science Week

Leads (top news in natural science)

USGS Technology Helps Locate and Rescue Stranded Victims of Hurricane Katrina

USGS scientists are using geospatial and mapping technology to help emergency responders find stranded victims of Hurricane Katrina. When victims contact 911, it is nearly impossible for rescue crews to locate individuals in flooded areas by their street names and addresses. USGS is working with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Geological Survey to remedy the situation by using "geo-addressing," where researchers, using geographic information systems, are able to take these street addresses and provide longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates. These maps are then provided to rescue-helicopter pilots to assist in locating those people who remain stranded in flooded areas of New Orleans. So far, USGS scientists have produced over 3,000 tabloid maps and 40 poster maps. USGS has assisted with thousands of calls and e-mail messages from stranded hurricane victims or individuals who know where victims are stranded. Go online at http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/hurricane/katrina-gis.htm or contact Carolyn Bell at 703-648-4463 or at cbell@usgs.gov for more information.

USGS Maps Show Where Roads, Levees, and Pipelines Remain in New Orleans

In response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, USGS is supplying geospatial data products to the White House, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, National Guard troops, and other federal partners. The USGS is providing imagery, critical infrastructure data, elevation products, and various forms of mapping information, including map products generated with updated FEMA-HAZUS critical infrastructure data integrated onto flood inundation areas in the New Orleans area. The USGS also created maps showing post-hurricane satellite imagery, pumping station locations with available capacity, and levee breaches, and maps that provided information about oil, gas, and electric power infrastructure in New Orleans. For more information, contact Heather Friesen at 303-202-4765 or hfriesen@usgs.gov.

Water-level Gage Up and Running in New Orleans

The USGS has successfully installed a temporary water-level gage in New Orleans, located on Lake Forest Boulevard. This gage is currently providing critical real-time information to monitor water levels as they begin to recede. Real-time data typically are recorded at 15 to 60 minute intervals, stored onsite, and then transmitted to USGS offices every one to four hours. To track the water levels at this gage, go to http://waterdata.usgs.gov/la/nwis/uv/?site_no=300223089565701&agency_cd=USGS. Hydrological technicians from the USGS are in the process of installing additional temporary gages throughout the city of New Orleans as well as at gage sites that were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. For other information, contact A.B. Wade at 703-648-4483 or abwade@usgs.gov.

Water, Water Everywhere Flood Forecasting and Control

The USGS streamgage network consists of about 7,000 gages that provide critical data on river depth and flow used for flood forecasts and operation of flood-control reservoirs. This national asset protects lives and property and ensures adequate water supplies for the future. During Hurricane Katrina, most of the gages along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were destroyed. As the hurricane season continues and more storms are possible, USGS hydrological technicians are working to reinstall gages in these regions so surface-water information will be available in real-time and online to emergency officials and the public. Learn more online at http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/, or contact A.B. Wade at 703-648-4483 or abwade@usgs.gov.

Hurricane Katrina’s Effects on Wildlife

The Chandeleur Islands, a chain of barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast, are not only a first line of protection against hurricanes for New Orleans, but also are vital wildlife habitat. USGS scientists flew over the islands in June 2005, and again on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, after Katrina hit. These post-hurricane flights revealed that the entire chain had been reduced in area by half, and that seagrass beds were significantly damaged. Endangered brown pelicans; sandwich, royal, and caspian terns; and black skimmers (among others) nest on these islands. Although most birds have completed this year’s nesting, USGS researchers are concerned about future nesting success. Depending on how, and if, the islands recover, these birds may not find suitable nesting locations, resulting in reduced bird numbers. Shorebirds also use the islands’ shallow areas for feeding. Species that depend on seagrass beds include marine mammals, turtles, and fish, as well as migratory species such as redhead ducks. The Chandeleurs are essential stopover habitat for Neotropical birds migrating to and from Central America, and it is fall migration time now. Hurricane winds may have swept some birds off course, and habitat destruction may prevent others from using the area. This will be especially critical in the spring when these birds cross the entire Gulf, using the chain to rest before continuing their northward flight. For more information, contact Catherine Puckett at cpuckett@usgs.gov or 352-264-3532.

Feeds (science updates and happenings)

View Before and After Photos Depicting Hurricane Katrina’s Impact

View aerial photos from the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline showing before-and-after conditions in response to Hurricane Katrina. The comparisons show the nature and magnitude of the coastal changes as a result of beach erosion, overwash deposition, and island breaching. This data will also be used to further refine predictive models of coastal impacts from severe storms and are available to local, state, and federal agencies for purposes of disaster recovery and erosion mitigation. For more information, go online to http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/hurricanes/katrina/, or contact Carolyn Bell at 703-648-4463 or cbell@usgs.gov.

USGS Videotape Footage of Coastal Impacts of Hurricane Katrina

The USGS has released a 25-minute videotape of footage showing coastal impacts resulting from Hurricane Katrina along the coastline of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The total length is about 25 minutes, has 7 segments, and can be accessed by contacting Carolyn Bell at 703-648-4463 or cbell@usgs.gov, or Ann B. Tihansky at 727- 803-8747 ext. 3075 or tihansky@usgs.gov.

Scientist Use Radar to Survey Levees and Water Level in Louisiana

USGS and NASA scientists are flying LIDAR (radar) surveys of the levees and water levels in the Lake Pontchartrain basin, including New Orleans. These surveys provide essential information to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation to study the levee structures. For more information online, go to http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/hurricanes/katrina/, or contact Carolyn Bell at 703-648-4463 or cbell@usgs.gov.

Understanding Flooding and Restoration of Coastal Louisiana

The rates of subsidence and sea-level rise are important considerations in the restoration of both the city of Louisiana and the wetlands that protect it. New Orleans is sinking two inches per decade, and it is anticipated that it will sink roughly one meter in the next 100 years relative to mean sea level. The ocean is also rising. During the last century, the ocean rose one to two millimeters per year. Within the next century, some areas of the city that did not flood as a result of Hurricane Katrina would likely flood under a similar hurricane situation due to subsidence and sea-level rise. For more information about this topic, view the online report, "Sea-Level Rise and Subsidence: Implications for Flooding in New Orleans," at http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/hurricane/katrina.htm, or contact Catherine Puckett at cpuckett@usgs.gov or 352-264-3532.

Story Seeds (points to ponder or investigate)

Congressional Hazards Caucus/USGS Earthquake Hazards Products

On Sept. 20, USGS Seismologist David Wald will participate in a Congressional Hazards Caucus Coalition briefing in room 2325 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., at 3 p.m. Dr. Wald will discuss the need for rapid response tools when earthquakes strike and how USGS products such as the ShakeMap and "Did You Feel It?" section of the USGS Web site help emergency managers respond quickly to natural hazards and enable the public to give feedback and know what is going on in an impacted community. For more information, contact Clarice Nassif Ransom at 703-648-4299 or cransom@usgs.gov.

Society of Environmental Journalists Conference

The current USGS acting director, P. Patrick Leahy, and former director, Charles G. Groat, will speak during The Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Austin, TX, Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. For more information, contact A.B. Wade at 703-648-4483 or at abwade@usgs.gov.

Earth Science Week

Activities for Earth Science Week are scheduled October 9-15. This year’s theme is "Geoscientists Explore the Earth." Mark your calendar and keep your eye on http://www.usgs.gov for USGS events in your area. For more information, contact Karen Wood at 703-648-4447 or at kwood@usgs.gov.


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