Hurricanes have been in the news of late, threatening major urban areas and regions of high population density. While we can see devastating results, GIS has become an important tool in assessing the risk of hurricanes and estimating the impact of damage that they may cause. GIS has also helped in the recovery effort.
Hurricane Vulnerability Assessment with GIS
In assessing potential damage and risk, estimating damage and loss in a given space can be challenging since the type of built structure found in areas affects damage. One recent application has been to create and utilize geodatabases and other content as vector and raster maps. One set of inputs includes wind speeds before given damage can occur for a given structure. The ranges of wind speeds buildings can withstand are classified and typed to create estimate maps of likely places of damage based on possible hurricane routes. Building vulnerability can be estimated based on weighted structural vulnerability scores.
Geospatial Modeling of Storm Surges
Risks estimated using physical modeling of storm surges have included applying the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) wave model and the Advanced Circulation (ADCIRC) hydrodynamic model with GIS. These combined tools are part of Arc StormSurge, which provides accurate spatial patterns of storm surges in affected areas. Accuracy of models, however, often depends on quality of data. Estimating storm surges in small areas or distances has proven more challenging. It was shown that using Boolean overlay analysis with available data, including using LiDAR elevation maps along with stream basins estimated from satellite imagery, enable more accurate estimates of where storm surges are likely to happen based on the strength of hurricanes.
Using GIS to Assess Long-Term Ecological Damage of Hurricanes
While most studies have focused on risk to built areas, hurricanes have also cost long-term damage to ecosystems. The estimate of losses for ecosystem service or degradation of worth across different areas affected by Hurricane Sandy was utilized to show how much relative damage such a hurricane causes. Indices were created for areas to quantify damage; additionally how long given areas would be affected, such as by salinization increases due to a storm surge, were also used to more accurately determine how much damage is caused. Wetland accretion is one area that has been shown to be an important factor in wetland stability. Hurricanes make an important contribution to wetland accretion. Using data from Louisiana from Hurricane Isaac, accretion rates and their effect on landform across Louisiana can be estimated based on pre-hurricane, during, and after the event to estimate and project through spatial interpolation.
GIS and GPS Assistance with Hurricane Recovery
Other areas where GPS and GIS can be applied include in the recovery after a major hurricane such as Hurricane Sandy. In this case, web maps were created that allowed the tracking of assets that were buried but had GPS utilized. Using this allows a more rapid recovery of critical assets and can even be used to mitigate losses from hurricanes by saving time in the recovery effort, particularly for objects or items that have limited time for recovery after a hurricane. Furthermore, in evacuation from hurricanes, pickup points could be estimated using spatial optimization algorithms that can determine where pickup points could be best placed and how many are needed for a given area. This has been applied for New Orleans, where it was estimated that many lives could have been saved if the optimization points for evacuation pickup by authorities were estimated and planned for before the event occurred. In that case, seventeen pickup points across the city could have significantly improved survival.
While most modeling has focused on damage estimates and risk assessment from storms in damage to buildings, other works have shown GIS could be used to help mitigate damage to property and people directly. The use of GIS also helps to estimate ecosystem losses and determine areas damaged by hurricanes.
 For more on the method and data utilized for estimating spatial risk to damage by hurricane damage, see: Taramelli, A., Valentini, E. & Sterlacchini, S. (2015) A GIS-based approach for hurricane hazard and vulnerability assessment in the Cayman Islands. Ocean & Coastal Management. [Online] 108, 116–130.
 For more on Arc StormSurge, see: Ferreira, C.M., Olivera, F. & Irish, J.L. (2014) Arc StormSurge: Integrating Hurricane Storm Surge Modeling and GIS. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association. [Online] 50 (1), 219–233.
 For more on the analyses and data utilized for estimating storm surges, see: Artigas, F., Bosits, S., Kojak, S., Elefante, D., et al. (2016) Conveying Flood Hazard Risk Through Spatial Modeling: A Case Study for Hurricane Sandy-Affected Communities in Northern New Jersey. Environmental Management. [Online] 58 (4), 636–644.
 For more on damage caused by storm surges to ecosystem services and how it can be spatially estimated, see: Hauser, S., Meixler, M.S. & Laba, M. (2015) Quantification of Impacts and Ecosystem Services Loss in New Jersey Coastal Wetlands Due to Hurricane Sandy Storm Surge. Wetlands. [Online] 35 (6), 1137–1148.
 For more on the hurricane accretion study in Louisiana and its effect on wetland regions, see: Bianchette, T., Liu, K., Qiang, Y. & Lam, N. (2015) Wetland Accretion Rates Along Coastal Louisiana: Spatial and Temporal Variability in Light of Hurricane Isaac’s Impacts. Water. [Online] 8 (1), 1.
 For more on using web technologies, GPS, and GIS in recovery of valuable items after a hurricane, see: Christopher, K. (2014) How GIS and GPS technology aided a utility with Hurricane Sandy planning and recovery. Journal – American Water Works Association. [Online] 106, 61–63. Available from: doi:10.5942/jawwa.2014.106.0099.
 For more on optimization of survival pickup places in a hurricane, see: Bian, R. & Wilmot, C.G. (2017) An analysis on transit pick-up points for vulnerable people during hurricane evacuation: A case study of New Orleans. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. [Online] Available from: doi:10.1016/j.ijdrr.2017.07.005 [Accessed: 3 November 2017].