BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the aftermath of heavy flooding caused by
Tropical Storm Irene, University at Buffalo researchers are
conducting a damage assessment that could help hard-hit communities
in New York plan for future disasters.
On Sept. 10, geographers from UB's LESAM laboratory and MCEER
research center visited populated areas within the Schoharie Creek
watershed west of the Catskill Mountains to photograph damage and
collect corresponding GPS coordinates.
The survey covered parts of Schoharie County and Greene County,
including the town of Prattsville, N.Y., which was inundated by
The team is now combining its field site observations with
hydrological data, aerial imagery and elevation data to determine
the extent of the flooding and destruction.
Through data analysis and modeling, the scientists will be able
to categorize the flood in the context of historical disasters. The
information the researchers produce could help planners create more
accurate watershed models and flood maps to better protect
communities and infrastructure along Schoharie Creek from a future
"The goal of our assessment is to look back and see what
happened in the past, what happened now and how we're going to do
things in the future. While we're assessing this particular event,
we're creating a baseline for this community to build a more
resilient future," said Chris Renschler, LESAM director and MCEER
LESAM is UB's Landscape-Based Environmental System Analysis and
Modeling laboratory, and MCEER is a UB national center of
excellence formerly known as the Multidisciplinary Center for
Earthquake Engineering Research.
Besides Renschler, members of the UB reconnaissance team
included LESAM postdoctoral research scientist Graham Hayes and
geography students Ryan Mendieta, Alejandro Llaves (an exchange
student from the International Research Training Group on Semantic
Integration of Geospatial Information) and Zhihao Wang.
"We each came away with a deeper awareness of the awesome power
of moving water as well as renewed appreciation for the resiliency
and kindness of people helping each other through such a tragic
event," said Hayes, commenting on the experience. "We look forward
to sharing the results of our mapping efforts and analytical models
with these communities."
The visit to Prattsville was arranged by the Information
Products Laboratory for Emergency Response (IPLER), a National
Science Foundation Partnership for Innovation project headed by the
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and UB.
Renschler is a co-principal investigator of the project, whose
activities include developing technologies that can provide
emergency responders with real-time flood and fire maps during
The aerial imagery and elevation data the UB team is using to
assess damage along Schoharie Creek was collected by IPLER
collaborators from RIT and Kucera International, a private company
that provides aerial mapping and geomatic services.
Tools the flight crew used to gather data included a four-camera
system that combines high-resolution color with infrared imaging,
and a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensor, which uses laser
pulses to make precision elevation measurements. These systems are
the same ones the team used to gather data following the earthquake
in Haiti in 2010.
Both LESAM and MCEER have been active in assessing damage and
conducting research following past disasters. LESAM team members
helped map damage after the 2010 Haiti quake, and MCEER researchers
have conducted damage assessments and related research after events
including Hurricane Katrina and recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile
and New Zealand.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.
Following Tropical Storm Irene, RIT Conducts Flood Mapping of
Hard-Hit Areas in New York: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-09/riot-rcf090111.php
LESAM Geographers Help Map Devastation in Haiti: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/10935
About LESAM: http://lesami.geog.buffalo.edu/lesam
About MCEER: http://mceer.buffalo.edu/
About IPLER's research on flood disaster management: http://ipler.cis.rit.edu/flood
About the International Research Training Group on Semantic
Integration of Geospatial Information: http://irtg-sigi.uni-muenster.de/