GIS Professionals, 4-H Groups, and Social Networkers Fight Hurricanes with Technology


With Gustav downgraded from hurricane to mere “tropical
depression” status this week, you may be wondering what the all distinctions
mean. What, exactly, is the difference among the five categories of hurricanes,
and between hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions? How do
storms get their names? And what about those cyclones?

If you guessed it has something to do with wind speeds, and
geography, you’d be right. Learn how to decipher the meteorological jargon with
these answers to “frequently asked questions (FAQs)” provided by the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) and Because
while you can’t control the weather, you can prepare for it. Knowledge is power!

Learning about storm terminology is a great first step to
understanding news reports and alerts. Some are doing even more to help prepare
themselves and their communities. Rather than rely solely on government
agencies like FEMA, 4-H students, GIS professionals and social networkers are
taking action into their own hands.


Through 4-H’s “Alert, Evacuate
and Shelter”
program, teenagers in areas vulnerable to natural disaster
work with local government officials, first responders, caregivers, and others
to create evacuation plans for their communities. The students use GIS
technology to synthesize data and produce comprehensive maps detailing
evacuation routes, shelter locations, and other critical information.

Within hours of Gustav’s initial landfall, Andy Carvin had
created a community page on the Ning! social network to gather and distribute
the latest reports in the form of news feeds and an interactive map. provides a platform for the
public to contribute firsthand information, engage in storytelling and
dialogue, and rally around the cause for storm relief. Pretty cool, no?

How does an ambulance find stranded victims when all the street
signs have been uprooted? With the help of geocoding and GIS professionals! In
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, members of the volunteer group GISCorps set up shop in the Gulf
region, lending their expertise to assist with search and rescue, relief efforts,
and documentation. The Corps members analyzed incoming data and produced
up-to-date maps detailing the rapidly changing conditions and available

Tell Us: What do
you think of these grassroots initiatives using geospatial technology to respond
to major natural disasters?

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