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The 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through November 30. Throughout the season, the U.S. Geological Survey will be providing science that can help guide efforts to protect lives and property if a storm threatens the U.S. 

The U.S. Geological Survey is well-known for providing the nation high-quality geologic and topographic maps. A lessor known role the USGS fills during some hurricanes and tropical storms is providing disaster response communities access to a variety of state-of-the-art geospatial data, tools, maps, imagery, elevation data and more. These products can aid local, state and federal agencies as they make decisions that can protect lives and property.

First responders often rely on the USGS National Geospatial Program, which collects, archives and shares digital records of the nation’s topography, natural landscape and human-made environment. The program’s Geospatial Information Response Team works within the USGS and with partner agencies to provide key information to those responding to a major hurricane or other hazard. Some of this information is shown on event support maps built as a multi-layered mapping applications that provide a big-picture view of a storm’s impacts, or a close-up of a specific community.

For this hurricane season, the GIRT has a newly designed, publicly available Event Support Map HUB site that offers access to applications, resources and information for hurricanes and other natural disasters. The site combines all major hazards under a single application for quick access and viewing that can be used by the public and decision makers for situational awareness and visualization during hazard events. Click here to view the public site.

The GIRT also relies on  the USGS Earth Resource Observation and Science Center to coordinate the acquisition and archiving of location-based emergency response imagery and make it accessible. The center provides access to remotely sensed imagery and geospatial datasets in response to requests from agencies engaged in disaster response. These products enable agencies to plan responses according to current conditions on the ground. The imagery and other geospatial datasets are available on the USGS Hazards Data Distribution System. 

To analyze field data gathered after a storm, USGS scientists need detailed information about land elevation, which is provided by the USGS 3D Elevation Program. The program collects data using lidar – a technique that uses light pulses to produce high resolution elevation data – for the U.S. and its territories. These data are used for mapping storms’ flood inundation, modeling storm surge, evaluating topographic changes, such as beach and dune erosion, and pinpointing damage to buildings and other infrastructure. Up-to-date elevation data are also essential for supporting infrastructure repair and redevelopment after a storm. This information is being acquired nationwide and is available on The National Map

*Editor’s note: The photo at the top of the story shows a 3D flood inundation map of Port Neches, Texas, created using USGS lidar and high-water marks after Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017. High-resolution elevation data and maps like this serve post-hurricane recovery efforts and are critical for hazard mitigation policies, assessing coastal landscape change and vulnerability, redevelopment planning, and emergency preparedness and disaster response. USGS image.

Learn more about USGS hurricane science.

Extensive flooding inundated the Gulf Coast of Texas after Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25, 2017. Among the many waterways in southeastern Texas that exceeded flood stage was the Brazos River, which flows past Houston to its west and to the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport. A USGS streamgage on the Brazos near Rosharon showed that a river level normally at around 10 feet peaked at 52.65 feet on August 29. That was about 10 feet above flood stage. Even with scattered clouds in these Landsat images, the extent of flooding on the landscape just south of Houston is evident. The Landsat 8 image from August 12 shows the area before the storm hit. Landsat 7 passed over the same area on September 5 to show the flooded Brazos River. Landsat continues to monitor the extent of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The USGS provides science for a changing world. Learn more at or follow us on Facebook @USGeologicalSurvey, YouTube @USGS, Instagram @USGS, or Twitter @USGS.

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