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High-tech mapping system keeps track of cleanup efforts in Joplin

Reported July 18, 2011 at 6:10 PM CST by Zach Fletcher:  Agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Missouri National Guard are using technology called Geographical Information Systems to plot out which Joplin properties have been cleaned and the progress of the debris removal efforts.

Mapping is sometimes an asset we take for granted but after the May 22 tornado, the use of GIS technology has become one of the most useful tools in monitoring the cleanup process.

It has made the process more efficient causing parcels of land to be cleaned quicker.

“One hour in the desk can probably save a whole day for one person out in the field,” says GIS specialist Nicholas Laskowsi of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Since the Corps of Engineers isn’t cleaning every lot, the mapping helps the group know which lots have been clear, which have entered the nuisance and abatement process, and other key information.

Corps workers say the mapping helps them see the progress of the cleanup efforts and plan for another day’s work. 

“By making maps with the post-tornado imagery and the parcel lines, then showing them which ones we have right-of-entry or a nuisance parcels, we can more accurately navigate and make sure they’re accessing the right lot,” says Teresa Silence, also a GIS specialist with the Corps.  “It does add a different complexity because they track these slightly different in different groups so it’s a little different complexity of information that we have to integrate.”

While the Corps compiles all the different data, the Missouri National Guard creates it’s own 3-D mapping set with it’s own criteria as to what is cleared.

“Overall we’re all on the same page – we do see some slight discrepancies but those are usually the set definition clearing for the parcel and how each organization classifies it,” says Sgt. Brandon Wolfe, a GIS specialist with the Missouri National Guard.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it is impressed with the cleanup effort so far.

The FEMA deadline for cleanup to be covered under the 90/10 federal aid formula is August 7.

Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:32 PM CST:

News release issued by Missouri National Guard’s Public Affairs Office

JOPLIN, Mo. –It may be hard to imagine how much debris has been removed from areas devastated in and around Joplin or Duquesne, but the Missouri National Guard Task Force Phoenix – tasked with supervising the clean-up and removal process can show just how much progress has been made. In tracking the progression, a GIS map goes green as a parcel of land is clear and progress is being made.

“The maps are geographical representations of the area affected by the tornado,” said Sgt. Brandon Wolfe, geospatial engineer, with Task Force Phoenix.  “It helps us track the progression of the debris removal.”

The Missouri National Guard geographic information system team drives through communities collecting data as the debris removal process continues. As land is cleared, Missouri Guardsmen document it on a map where the cumulative data is then gathered and uploaded to produce debris assessment maps.  

“We drive the same sectors everyday to document changes,” said Sgt. Jennifer Shepherd, Task Force Phoenix.  “This way we can see what stage the property is in.”

Each parcel on the map will get a letter to determine what needs to be done to the property.  When the property is clear and has no discrepancies, it goes from red to green

“We’re looking for many different factors in deciding what the property needs to be classified as,” said Sgt. Troy Smith, TF Phoenix.  “It could be a tree, a stump that needs to be removed, demolition, debris or rubble.”

This on-going mission is important to show the progress of the debris removal process and track where resources should be focused. 

“The ability to graphically and visually observe database information allows us to more quickly and accurately analyze the status of the operation,” said Col. William A. Ward, TF Phoenix commander.  

Printed maps of the GIS information are shared with agency partners and the local governments weekly in order to keep them abreast of the rapidly changing situation and so they can aid in keeping the public informed of the progress.

“The GIS allows us to share a common operating picture with all our partner agencies. FEMA, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Joplin, and the Guard utilize the system to track the progress of debris removal and associated information, such as rights of entry, nuisance properties, and demolition,” explained Ward.

“As we approach the 7 August deadline for expedited debris removal, knowing where to target the debris removal operations will be critical to minimizing costs to the local governments and the State of Missouri.”

The GIS operation will continue until the National Guard services are no longer required for debris removal.  The date will be dictated by actual debris removal progress.


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