Hurricane Sandy Geospatial Resources


Hurricane Sandy has given the East Coast quite a wallop. As emergency management and other organizations try to get a handle on the extent of the problem and as a nation we begin to patch ourselves up, we thought it might be useful to provide some of the geospatially oriented information that might be relevant. I plan to update this as we get more information, it certainly isn’t all encompassing yet.

Imagery – pre and post-Sandy

Satellite and airborne imagery are often critical to understanding the spatial extent and severity of an event. The National Geodetic Survey should be up flying today (Halloween) and will be posting their georeferenced imagery on NOAA’s Emergency Response Imagery page. The Civilian Air Patrol has already flown and posted images from hand-held cameras (not georeferenced) at these links: October 30 part 1, October 30 part 2, October 31 part 1, and October 31 part 2. There is sure to be more data from them and others that lands on the USGS Hazards Data Distribution System, though some data may require a login to access.

Pre-event imagery can be found on a number of web sites. If all you need is quick access to a general view and don’t need to get your hands on the actual data or need information on horizontal accuracy, the services provided by Google and Bing may be exactly what you need. If you need access to the imagery for download, there are a few potential sources, but I’d recommend the USGS National Map viewer.

Damage Assessment and Post-Storm Impact Data

Damage assessment information may take some time to come in and be compiled in a comprehensive manner after a major event. While the damage from Sandy was not expected to be primarily wind damage, there may be some use in looking at the wind analysis of the storm available from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.  Comprehensive assessments of the damage will take some time, but there are a number of first look assessments you can find covering various scales. One good one I’ve found is from the New York Times and provides a broad look at a good sized geography. Of course, the FEMA Disaster and Emergency Declarations are another good place to look and include a number of geospatial formats to help you pull in the data (map services, shapefiles, kmz, WMS, etc.).

 Environmental Effects

Knowing where the environmentally sensitive areas are so you can match them up with what’s known about Sandy’s path, water, and wind fields can be important. The Office of Response and Restoration puts out Environmental Sensitivity Index maps that can help you do this.


Erosion is always an issue with large storms such as Sandy. The imagery mentioned earlier is certainly a fast way to see where the impacts to the shoreline may have been. Getting volumetric estimates of the change and impacts is probably best done with lidar data. Recent pre-storm data was collected by the USACE/JALBTCX team in 2010 for the Sandy area and is available on line through the Digital Coast Data Access Viewer. If you can work with LAZ point data files, you can also get direct access to the data. You’ll find a table of data there that should be reasonably clear. Shapefiles are in the subdirectories with a tile index. If you need to convert the LAZ files to LAS, you’ll need the laszip tool freely available from LAStools.

I expect someone will be collecting post-storm lidar data along the coast. This is often USACE/JALBTCX or USGS and they coordinate on who is doing what. I’ll let you know the plan as soon as I hear. In any case, the data generally takes a bit of time to collect and process.

This was a quick write-up of what I know about so far and I’m expecting to add more and fix whatever errors I may have done.


  1. NGS flew imagery on October 31st. You can see the data at Delmarva coverage along the coast goes from the north end of Assateague to slightly into Delaware. New Jersey coverage goes from Lower Township to Brigatine Inlet plus a small collection on the north end of Little Egg Inlet.
    Other related links:

    The zip files of the October 31st flights and imagery is ready for download at

    There is also a crisis map from Google at


  2. Here are some additional resources that might be useful.
    FEMA has has map services for a number of topics. These links take you to the the services page. If you aren’t sure what to do with a services page, use the “ map” link at the top and it will show the data on a zoomable map.
    •FEMA National Shelter System that is publically available. GIS rest endpoint:
    •Power Outage Mapping:•Sandy_Surge_Extent:
    sandy_storm_surge – storm_tide
    sandy_storm_surge – rapid_deployment_streamgage
    sandy_nwis_sites – sandy_nwis
    •Hurricane Sandy Impact Analysis:


  3. Socioeconomic and Demographic Data

    Data and information on human populations, societal interactions, and economic factors can be used to analyze the impact of storm events on coastal communities

    U.S. Census Bureau OnTheMap for Emergency Management

    Coastal County Snapshots

    U.S. 112 Congressional District Boundaries

    Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW)

    Gross Domestic Product

    Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages


  4. I have heard of USGS plans to collect lidar using the EAARLB sensor. Note that these are only the intended flight areas, and plans can change.
    – Full island topography coverage of Fire Island
    – A coastal swath of the DelMarVA peninsula through Cape Lookout. That is likely to be something like a 1 km wide swath focused on the ocean facing beach.
    While the EAARLB is capable of collecting bathymetry and topography, water conditions will probably make this a topo only collection.


  5. There is a large list of data resources, situation reports, etc. on the USGS HDDS site at…
    To access it, you will need to register with the USGS and set up an account, but it’s pretty easy to do.


  6. I received the following information from Dana Wright at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
    The Fish and Wildlife Service has some geospatial data that may be helpful to many Federal agencies and State and local governments if you want to link to it on your Sandy-related blog.

    The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982 and its amendments limit Federal expenditures and financial assistance which have the effect of encouraging development on designated coastal barriers known as the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). CBRA will affect agencies doing or funding disaster assistance, permanent restoration assistance, and other activities following Hurricane Sandy. The CBRS is depicted on a series of maps maintained by the Fish and Wildlife Service, but we also have approximate polygons depicting the CBRS available for download on our website:

    Additional information on what the Coastal Barrier Resources Act is and what it means is also on our website:


  7. A few people have asked about the lidar data that was collected after the storm by USGS and USACE. At the moment, you can find that data on the USGS HDDS site under….

    Since this data isn’t ingested into the HDDS system, you won’t find it by using the usual HDDS search (or so I believe). I expect it may eventually be ingested and become searchable. Note that you will need to register with HDDS to download (but that’s easy). Make sure you read the documentation that comes with the data on HDDS. I saw at least one USGS lidar data set that said it used GEOID96 to get to NAVD88.

    The lidar data that USACE contracted to the private sector can also be found on the Digital Coast data viewer.


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