Reacting to the 1,000-year Rain: Fast Imagery Turnaround for Emergency Response

Last month, in response to the flooding in South Carolina, Woolpert provided imagery to assist in emergency relief efforts. The imagery was provided free of charge by Woolpert in an effort to supply the area with needed tools to help with immediate response. This imagery will be used by state and local governments for damage assessment in FEMA assistance as well as for infrastructure management.


Wednesday, Sept. 30

Joaquin intensified to a Category 3 hurricane.

Thursday, Oct. 1

Joaquin intensified to a Category 4 hurricane.

Sunday, Oct. 4–Monday, Oct. 5

Torrential rainfall measuring in 1–2 feet drenched South Carolina. Columbia, S.C. specifically, was one of the worst-hit cities. Experts and locals identified the storm as a 1,000-year-rain event.

Tuesday, Oct. 6

The Woolpert team flew and collected 330 square miles’ worth of 6-inch imagery over the affected area. Once our experienced team had collected the imagery, it flew back to our Dayton, Ohio headquarters to start processing the 212GB of raw imagery.

During that time, our software development team launched a webpage with an interactive slider so that users could easily compare before and after conditions once the imagery had been processed.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

The Woolpert-collected data finished processing and was posted in the morning.

Using software we’ve developed in-house for our cluster environment, we created the imagery cache for 40GB of imagery in about 10 minutes and updated the website to point to this new data. We then sent the website link and data to parties interested in it for emergency response purposes.

Brian Bates, project director in Woolpert’s Columbia office, knows the area and the people and had been leading the local charge.

“We’re here, we’re local and we’re part of this community,” he added. “If we had a chainsaw and that was needed to help our neighbor, we’d use a chainsaw. We had an airplane, so we used an airplane.”

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