Hurricane Maria and Dominica: geomorphological change and infrastructure damage baseline surveys, with verification of mapping from satellite imagery

Lead Research Organisation: University of Portsmouth
Department Name: Sch of Earth & Environmental Sciences

Abstract

During 18-19 September, Category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated the small island developing state of Dominica. Sustained winds of 257 Km/h almost completely stripped the island of its forest cover and caused much destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Intense rainfall and uprooting of trees caused numerous landslides, debris flows and river floods. Debris carried by the floods jammed under bridges, exacerbating overbank flooding and damage to infrastructure. Coarse sediment and tree debris discharged to the sea were transported back onto the coastline by the storm surge, damaging shoreline infrastructure.

The impact of Hurricane Maria upon the landscape of Dominica and the consequences for disaster risk reduction in Dominica are the focus of this research. This work is urgent because it must be completed before the landscape is further modified by intense rainfall events in the next hurricane season (June-November 2018). To understand how this either decreases or increases geomorphological hazards, as much survey work as possible needs to be done during the debris clearance phase of the recovery operations.


We therefore aim to produce a detailed post-event survey, combining remote sensing and fieldwork, of the geomorphological changes caused by Hurricane Maria and an understanding of their effects on post-hurricane landscape instability, focusing on the damage done to critical infrastructure by flooding, debris flows and storm surge erosion. There are three phases to the project: 1) processing of satellite imagery (both optical and radar), evaluating the effectiveness of remote sensing for damage mapping; 2) Fieldwork and verification survey of slope instability features and damaged infrastructure; 3) Analysis of stakeholder perceptions of vulnerability and resilience, with collation of survey results into an assessment of future geohazards, with recommendations on improved disaster risk reduction and enhanced resilience.

The project will have many applications: (i) providing a valuable baseline inventory of hurricane impacts in Dominica's landscape and the ensuing damage to infrastructure; (ii) enabling an accuracy assessment of the hurricane damage maps produced from inspection of satellite remote sensing imagery during the disaster response phase; (iii) enabling an examination of the interaction between hurricane-driven geomorphic processes and ensuing damage to critical infrastructure; (iv) improving our understanding of post-hurricane landscape instability and the DRR implications for reconstruction in Dominica.

Planned Impact

The primary beneficiaries of this project will be Dominica Government agencies working on recovery and reconstruction after Hurricane Maria, as well as local NGOs and international organisations working with them. The findings of the project will also particularly benefit emergency planning and disaster response organisations by seeking ways of improving the accuracy of the damage maps produced from satellite remote sensing imagery a few days after a disaster event.
We will place data and results from our work in the public domain e.g. as digital maps and associated documents, detailing infrastructure damage distribution, landscape change and hazardous terrain. We will seek to meet stakeholders to convey key results of our work as quickly as possible, in working papers, non-technical summaries and policy briefings.
Here is a summary of impacts for the main beneficiaries:
1. Government agencies responsible for post-hurricane recovery and reconstruction. We will produce a baseline dataset of landscape change and damage to critical infrastructure resulting from Hurricane Maria; ensuring that the data, results and recommendations are made available through our partners in the Dominica Meteorological Service, Ministry of Public Works & Ports, and the Department of Local Government & Community Development.
2. Disaster management organisations, specifically those using satellite remote sensing (RS) for disaster damage mapping and emergency response. That extends from the United Nations (UNITAR), through to international NGOs (e.g. Red Cross, MapAction), all benefiting from our accuracy analysis of the Dominica damage maps produced for the hurricane response and our search for improved methodologies of satellite RS-based feature mapping for disaster management
3. Communities and local NGOs Our NGO partners in Dominica, the Red Cross and the Public Seismic Network, will support our research efforts there, and provide pathways to impact within the country for our findings. Impact opportunities will be maximised by embedding the knowledge generated by this project within the local policy-maker and stakeholder communities.
4. International beneficiaries: the potential benefits are not limited to Dominica, with the project findings likely to be of use in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) or countries with urban areas in mountainous coastal settings (e.g. Freetown, Sierra Leone). This project maps directly onto Target (d) of the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services.
5. The International Research sector will benefit important for dissemination of our findings, via dissemination of our findings by our regional partners: the Centre for Resource Management & Environmental Security at the University of the West Indies, the International Development Research Centre (Canada) and our partners in the DRR and disaster response sectors: UNITAR, ITC and MapAction. We will take every low-cost opportunity to interact with regional and international reconstruction partners, such as the Hurricane Response event of the UK Alliance on Disaster Research (Dec 2017) and the subsequent Overseas Development Institute meeting (Jan 2018). A key aspect of our participation in these international meetings will be to gain input from potential users on priorities for data collection in Dominica.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Hurricane Maria and Dominica: Drone Survey Overview 
Description In 2018 the University of Portsmouth undertook drone surveys in Dominica as part of a research project to help advise on the 'build back better' process following on from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. This video gives an overview of the project. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Raising project methodology, and necessity, to general public. 
URL https://youtu.be/iZrcrhsg3D0
 
Title Hurricane Maria and Dominica: Drone Survey, an in depth look 
Description In 2018 the University of Portsmouth undertook drone surveys in Dominica as part of a research project to help advise on the 'build back better' process following on from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. This video provides an in depth view of the project with interviews from the project lead and local residents who's lives have been affected by the hurricane. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Raising awareness of project methodology, and necessity, to general public 
URL https://youtu.be/4waiuXcoTNM
 
Description This NERC Urgency Grant was a relatively small award (£50,822 for 10 months of research between 15.1.2018 and 14.10.2018), but it has nevertheless produced many notable achievements. Valuable insights have been gained into the cascading hazards associated with extreme hurricanes and their impacts on tropical mountainous volcanic islands. A devastating combination was produced in Dominica by Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm: wind-toppled trees, and large (>2m diameter) boulders mobilised by landslides and severe flooding into deadly debris flows. Bridges became hazard multipliers after becoming blocked by tree debris and boulders, producing dams that eventually collapsed, with deadly consequences for villagers sheltering in down-river buildings. Other accumulations of large tree debris introduced into the floods by landslides and blow-down in the extreme winds also formed temporary dams away from the bridges, also triggering overbank floods; and tree debris that reached the ocean was also swept back onto windward shorelines increasing damage from storm surge.
The effects of hurricane-triggered hazards on infrastructure have been surveyed at all of the sites in Dominica where severe damage and/or fatalities occurred. Also surveyed were locations where critical infrastructure, notably bridges, survived the storm damage, with note made of the geomorphological setting and/or engineering design of such 'survivor' features. Infrastructure design features for improved hurricane resilience have been noted and circulated via briefings to technical experts (both Dominican and international), conference presentations, online newsletters, journal publications (article published, another accepted for review and four more articles in preparation).
The research team was initially concerned that the difficult logistical conditions in Dominica just a few months after Hurricane Maria would limit the effectiveness of UAV aerial photography surveys of sites with severe infrastructure damage. However, all of the 20 targeted priority sites were surveyed, along with a further 24 sites, enabling a comprehensive survey of hurricane-driven infrastructure damage around Dominica. That UAV aerial digital photography has been processed using an innovative low-cost methodology that could be very useful for other Small Island Developing States.
Exploitation Route An ongoing aspect of this will be to document changes to Dominica's terrestrial environment, particularly their consequences for changed and intensified geohazards that the reconstruction process and the newly reconstructed infrastructure will have to face. We have therefore organised a linked set of conference presentations, with co-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals that will present our findings so that they can be applied in other countries. Our results, particularly from the UAV surveys, but also the on-the-ground fieldwork and the interview-based studies, provide baseline data collected soon after Hurricane Maria. That would be critical for future investigations of the evolving long-term environmental and socio-economic effects of Hurricane Maria upon Dominica, including changes and intensifications of geohazards, and evaluations of the effectiveness of risk reduction policies and actions at local, national and international levels.
Our data, results and recommendations will be made available to the Government of Dominica, through our partners in the Dominica Meteorological Service, Ministry of Public Works & Ports, and the Department of Local Government & Community Development, as well as two key Dominica NGOs, the Red Cross and the Public Seismic Network. Meetings have been held during January/February 2019 with representatives of those listed Dominica government agencies and NGOs, at which our preliminary project findings and recommendations were presented and discussed, with further meetings planned for the summer of 2019. Also important for dissemination of our findings are our regional partners: the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Centre for Resource Management & Environmental Security at the University of the West Indies, the International Development Research Centre (Canada) and our partners in the DRR and disaster response sectors, UNITAR, ITC and MapAction. CDEMA have offered to host a summary of the main findings of this project on their website. Project members have continued to work with these partners to understand how to further process and develop our results in order to increase their impact upon disaster risk reduction efforts in Dominica and similar tropical mountainous volcanic islands.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Transport

 
Description The non-academic impact of this project derives from the collaboration with our contacts and partners in Dominica. The main governmental institutions benefiting from the results of the project are the Ministry of Public Works, Roads & Ports and the Ministry of Housing Lands and Water, specifically Land Survey and the Physical Planning Departments. We engaged from the start of the project with representatives of these institutions to explain the benefits of the project, as well as to identify their needs. We have deliveredproject findings to our Dominica partners, providing copies of our recently published paper on infrastructure damage in Dominica (including recommendations for building back better). Also presented were the results for pre- and post-hurricane change analysis from the UAV aerial photography and derived elevation models, as well as the satellite radar imagerty. We benefited the local community of Portsmouth (Dominica) through our input to the revised Community Disaster Plan during a consultation meeting as well as through a report delivered to the Director of the committee in February 2018. Further impact is expected to be achieved through the dissemination of results in the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). This regional institution has requested the final report of the project and any papers produced, to include them in their publicly available repository of Caribbean DRR documents. Locally, the Dominica Red Cross and the Dominica public seismic Network also offered to host a copy of the "good practice guidelines and lessons learnt from Hurricane Maria"- a document currently in preparation- in their website. A GCRF Network Grant application to support planning and recovery in the Caribbean, was submitted in February. The network will develop cascading hazard scenarios to support the development of emergency plans: the hydro-meteorological scenario will be based on the observations and information collected in this Dominica NERC Urgency Project.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Advice on improvements to the revision of Portsmouth (Dominica) disaster community plan.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Commonwealth Secretariat: invited presentation at conference on on strengthening Small State's resilience through disaster risk reduction
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL https://reliefweb.int/report/world/commonwealth-pioneer-small-state-disaster-solutions
 
Description Discussion meeting with Office of Disaster Management in Barbados on improving community participation through different engagement activities.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Discussion with Isreal Aid and Ministry of Education
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Discussion with members of the Ministry of Education in Dominica and Isreal Aid to discuss the way forward to best improve student engagement and understanding of Disaster Emergency Action in Dominica. Discussion over existing methods and a summary of my own research, along with presentation on findings regarding the best methods to improve engagement with students between 11-16. Plan to integrate Disaster Risk reduction into the school syllabus and / or include specific teachings through social science.
 
Description Meeting at Department of Local Government, Dominica, February 2019, to discuss implications of project results for community preparedness projects
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Meeting with interdepartmental group in government of Dominica, February 2019, to discuss implications of project results for disaster-resilient infrastructure plans
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Communicating the vulnerabuility of Dominica to geomorphological and hydrological hazards, aiming to improve community resilience.
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Funding ID GC00003 
Organisation University of Portsmouth 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 07/2019
 
Title UAV digital aerial photographs of damage hurricane sites in Dominica 
Description This is a set of UAV digital aerial photographs of 44 damage hurricane sites in Dominica. This is more than double the number of sites expected in the research proposal and because of the much larger amount of data to process the photogrammetric correction, generation of Digital Elevation MOodels (DEMS) and DEM differencing for pre- / post-hurricane change analysis is ongoing. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact An innovative low-cost methodology is being used for the digital processing of this UAV aerial photography - a summary is given in the 'Software & Technical Products' section. 
 
Description Collaboration with D.Zekkos, University of Michigan 
Organisation University of Michigan
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We took the data D.Zekkos captured pre-hurricane Maria to ground control overlapping study areas and provide a pre/post hurricane change assessment. The work is to be published in a joint paper and data to be used going forward..
Collaborator Contribution D.Zekkos provided UAV data of Dominica pre-hurricane Maria.
Impact Paper submitted at this point.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 
Organisation University of Portsmouth
Department Department of Sociology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Goelogical and Geomorphological aspects of physical vulnerability of communities and infrastructure to natural hazards in small island development states (SIDS)
Collaborator Contribution Social sciences and psychological theories input in the assessment of public vulnerability to natural hazards in small island development states (SIDS)
Impact BA Knowledge Frontiers Research Proposal KF2\100145 Drafting of a paper summarising social aspects of warning, prevention and response to Hurricane Maria.
Start Year 2018
 
Title Agisoft PhotoScan automation script (Python) 
Description This python script automates the PhotoScan workflow, including a facility of automatic gradual selection of tie points, which was not previously available. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Some discussion on the Agisoft forum. Link due to be published in academic paper, which could lead to further impact. 
URL https://www.agisoft.com/forum/index.php?topic=9578.msg47310#msg47310
 
Description Discussion and distribution of leaflets summarising project findings: Commonwealth Small States Research Conference: 'Strengthening Resilience through Disaster Risk Reduction' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Case study discussion and dstribution of 3 leaflets summarising the preliminary findings of this project (Hurricane Maria storm surge and debris flow damage to infrastructure, as well as uses of remote sensing for mapping damage and producing pre- / post-hurricane difference maps), to delegates at the Commonwealth Small States Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, London, 28.2.2019. Conference attended by ca. 60 diplomats and policy makers from Commonwealth countries, as wwell as disaster risk reduction technical experts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://thecommonwealth.org/media/news/commonwealth-pioneer-small-state-disaster-solutions
 
Description Fieldwork conducted with school students in Dominca in Roseau 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact As part of the fieldwork phase, three fieldtrips were conducted with schools in Dominica, with the main focus in Roseau (though one took place in Castle Bruce). At each school 30 students attended a fieldtrip (as part of a wider educational workshop) to assess the impacts of Hurricane Maria and to contextualise the hazard environment around them to better teach them about the locations of emergency services and shelters. This activity, along with local and international co-operation from the Seismic Research Centre in Trinidad, led to improve understanding of local hazard and risk perception and gave students an opportunity evaluate the current methods employed by government in disaster response. This has led to a change in the curriculum in these locations and discussion with government about the prospect of changing the national curriculum to include better provision for disaster risk reduction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Poster and communication in book of abstracts. CoV10 conference. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The poster session that displayed our poster attracted 1000+ researchers, practitioners and students. An estimation of 60 people stopped to read the poster and several discussions were held, specifically with researchers from the Caribbean. We kept in touch with several of these researchers and this lead to the inclusion of the UoP and Seismic Research Centre team in a proposal for a Network submitted in Feb 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ingv.it/editoria/miscellanea/2018/miscellanea43/
 
Description Poster presentation at EGU 2018 congress 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster presentation at Europe's largest annual geological conference; discussions with delegates, with questions about the nature of Hurricane Maria storm surge and its impacts on Dominica's infrastructure, as well as guidelines on ways of making infrastructure more resilient.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2018EGUGA..2010742H
 
Description Presentation at 26th European Conference on Information Systems, Portsmouth, 26 June 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation covered a range of 'crowd' activities that address disaster management, including crowdsharing and crowdsourcing, crowdmapping, and crowdsensing. Examples from Dominica after Hurricane Maria were used to illustrate the potential of the global crowd community for mapping post-hurricane damage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://researchportal.port.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/crowdsharing-crowdmapping-and-crowdsensing-...
 
Description Presentation on uses of satellite remote sensing for disaster risk reduction, focusing on Hurricane Maria and Dominica 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Approximately 50 diplomats and policy makers, along with NGO technical experts and journalists, attended the launch event for a new Canning House research paper, on 'Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean'. Presentations were given by the research paper authors and by a panel of invited experts, with included Richard Teeuw giving a summary of remote sensing applications for hurricane disaster risk reduction in Dominica. There was a question and answer session, with discussion about disaster risk reduction in Dominica and post-hurricane 'Build Back Better' strategies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.canninghouse.org/events/natural_disasters/
 
Description School visit (Winchester) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 20-30 Pupils attended talk on GIS as part of University of Portsmouth outreach activities, where the Dominica work featured heavily as a case study of how GIS can be utilised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Summary of satellite-based damage assessments for Dominic after Hurricane Maria, for online science newsletter (phys.org.news) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Report on the NERC-funded post-Hurricane Maria survey in Dominica, aiming to help establish new building codes to meet the demands of an expected increase in the number and severity of hurricanes globally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://phys.org/news/2018-02-hurricane-survey-worldwide.html
 
Description Symposium: Remote Sensing Applications for Risk Management 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A summary of the Dominica Urgency project aims, objectives, methods, data collected, data analysed to date and results was presentyed in the Remote Sensing Applications for Risk Management symposium, held in the UoP in February 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Symposium: Remote Sensing Applications for Risk Management 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of the symposium was to provide a forum for researchers, companies and organisations in the Solent region to meet and discuss possibilities for joint research and collaborative projects and included keynote talks from The European Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Eagle Eye Innovations. The topics presented included risk management, disaster risk reduction, mapping and/monitoring of hazards and at-risk areas, emergency response, community resilience, extraction industry monitoring (oil/gas, mining), (re)insurance, facilities management and infrastructure resilience.

I gave a talk and poster titled "Low-cost drone/UAV surveys to map hurricane damage in Dominica", which prompted questions from the audience and some discussion about future applications of the technique.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.sacatapultcoe.org/centre/south-coast/events/symposium-remote-sensing-applications-for-ris...
 
Description Talk at COV10 on the impact of educational practices in multi-hazard environments to improve percpetion. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The talk given to 50-100 people but arguably reached more through social media tweets. The talk led to participation in a working party on improving communication and perception through education in multi-hazard environments. It led to interest from Spain, Italy, Costa Rica and USA and was the focus of the question and answer session which followed the presentations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ingv.it/editoria/miscellanea/2018/miscellanea43/