Floods in Colorado and fires in California have disrupted the lives of thousands and become a feature of nightly news broadcasts across the country. But getting the word out on natural disasters can and should involve more than a simple static map of the damage. While interactive weather tools have long existed on the web, advancements in technology have improved the way that disaster information is disseminated to the public.
Having the right information can be life-saving, and fortunately several news and government organizations have built tools to connect people with the information they need.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which studies America’s landscape, natural resources and hazards, has released a real-time map of flooding conditions around the country.
This accompanies a previous project from the USGS tracking earthquake incidents around the world.
Esri, a GIS mapping software supplier, has also created a Colorado-centric flood map that compiles data and citizen reports about the flooding to create a comprehensive account about the latest developments. The inclusion of rainfall data and the location of shelters is particularly important in helping citizens in the area to make decisions.
This year, the fire season has been particularly bad in the American West, with one of the top three worst fires in California’s history still claiming land in and around Yosemite National Park. KPCC, a public media station in Southern California, took a different approach to informing the public about the surrounding fires with a dashboard that provides data about different fires around California. The handy option with this tool is the ability to look up data about each individual fire, including number of structures threatened or destroyed, the number of acres burned, how much of the fire is contained and even how many emergency vehicles have been deployed to deal with the situation.
Esri has also created a map of the Rim Fire near Yosemite that displays several perspectives on the fire, including its current area and points of interest, its progression and the history of fires in the Yosemite area.
Everyone at Visually would like to extend their condolences to all those affected by the fires and floods.
Allison McCartney is an editor at the PBS NewsHour focused on education and informational graphics, and a freelance designer in the Visual.ly marketplace. She has a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied Middle Eastern history and art. You can follow her on Twitter @anmccartney.