- Oct 29:
- CSU starts 2013 flood oral histories
- Oct 25:
- Colorado farmers in search of help two years after devastating flood
- Sep 7:
- Flood zones could expand, raising costs for some Coloradans
- Colorado floodwaters altered town of Lyons' identity
Longmont-based DigitalGlobe is known worldwide for its powerful satellite Earth imagery, but when last week's crushing rains began pooling in its neighbors' backyards, the company deployed its crisis-mapping program with a sense of personal urgency.
"These were our friends, neighbors, loved ones in harm's way, and so we were doing everything we could to get imagery," said Andy Dinville, a senior imagery analyst at DigitalGlobe.
The company released a report Thursday showing before-and-after photos of the Colorado flood damage, using its crisis-imagery service, called FirstLook. The service is designed to provide emergency planners with accurate, up-to-date information that they can use for risk assessment, monitoring potential staging areas, damage assessment and recovery planning.
"With a satellite, clouds permitting, we can image the entire Front Range in a single pass," Dinville said. "You can get it all and not have to prioritize or choose one area to focus on."
Dinville and many of his colleagues sensed the magnitude of the situation on the first day of flooding as they experienced the panicked traffic situation in Longmont caused by an abundance of road closures.
The team, frustrated at first by thick cloud cover, was finally able to capture swaths of Longmont and Lyons.
"You can use these smaller examples almost as statistical sampling," Dinville said. "You could see parts of Left Hand Creek, parts of Big Thompson and areas around Longmont — and we used those internally to gauge that the situation was really, really bad."
When the clouds finally parted, offering blue skies for brief periods Friday and Saturday afternoons, DigitalGlobe was able to capture clear images from Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border.
DigitalGlobe gave the images to first responders and government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross and the National Guard to help them gain some situational awareness in the rapidly changing and disorienting flood region.
Dinville said this data could help emergency crews map out what roads were usable, what shelters they could access, the conditions of bridges and whether those structures could handle the weight of light or heavy equipment.
The company is also leveraging a crowdsourcing feature that it recently added through an acquisition called Tomnod, which uses public insight to identify damage.
For Dinville and his team in Longmont, this is not a distant or abstract crisis, making them — like many other Coloradans — feel desperate to help.
"You want to help get the information out to as many people as possible, as soon as you can, to help them understand the magnitude and the risk to people," Dinville said. "But FirstLook allows us to get it out to the first responders. I just wish there was more we could do."