Lending support & critical information for hurricane recovery

Mapping disaster recovery from space: using satellite imagery to track satellite imaging of roof (blue) tarps over recovery time

Hannah Friedrich, University of Arizona


Innovation and Description: Mapping disaster recovery from space: using satellite imagery to track blue tarps

In the fall of 2020, Calcasieu Parish, in coastal southwest Louisiana, was struck by two category 4 hurricanes that damaged a significant portion of housing across the Parish. Blue tarps were installed on the roofs of damaged homes and buildings to prevent further damage until repairs could be made. Many tarps remain on roofs today. Due to a lack of household-level data, post-disaster recovery trends are challenging to track but critical for identifying differential recovery progress across socioeconomic groups. This project uses satellite imagery to document the geographic and temporal patterns of blue tarp installation on homes and the potential removal of tarps, signaling recovery. To contextualize what the removal of tarps means for households and their recovery experience, listening sessions and neighborhood “go-about” interviews will be conducted with residents in Calcasieu Parish to identify factors that enable and prohibit household-level recovery. This project is undertaken in collaboration with the Disaster Justice Network, a volunteer organization that helps communities across southern Louisiana recover by providing resources on resilient rebuilding techniques. The Disaster Justice Network identified the need to characterize the current state of physical recovery to best position resilient rebuilding efforts to have the greatest impact in preparation for future storm events. This project aims to address this knowledge gap of where damaged or yet-to-recover homes are concentrated, and project findings will be used by the Disaster Justice Network to support applications for funding related to resilient rebuilding and environmental justice.

Other Participants:

Shirley Laska, Kristina Peterson, Julie Maldonado

Primary Disaster Justice Benefits:

The innovation of this project is an insight into recovery timing and location as proxied by the installation and removal of blue tarps on structures. This information is collected systematically and has the potential to be scaled to other disaster-affected locations. This information will identify patterns of uneven recovery, which can be used to prioritize ongoing rebuilding work and address inequities in ongoing recovery.

Secondary Disaster Justice Benefits:

Information on uneven recovery from this analysis can be used to support grant applications led by Disaster Justice Network or communities within Lake Charles seeking additional recovery funds to repair and fortify damaged homes.

Would you recommend others (disaster survivors, disaster-impacted communities) learn more about the activity, project or program to consider adoption of a similar one?

Yes, disaster-impacted communities can use this information to bring additional attention to the injustices of ongoing recovery within Lake Charles.

What refinements additional to the ones you have implemented would you recommend others consider if they wish to adopt the activity, project or program?

This project is ongoing, so many lessons are still being learned. Inclusion of community partners upfront in learning how information on recovery can be useful is something I am working towards with upcoming fieldwork in fall 2023, but I wish I could have done more extensive community engagement sooner than I have been able to with my project schedule and other student responsibilities.