Technology Helps Matthew Recovery Efforts

Last Updated on October 20, 2016 9:23 am

RALEIGH – State emergency management personnel have begun transitioning from relief to recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The timing of the shift will vary based upon the severity of local impact, with some communities already working to survey damage and assist residents with relocation, while others are responding to immediate safety needs.

The latest estimates show hurricane-related flooding has impacted more than 100,000 structures valued at nearly $1.5 billion.

“We continue to support and provide guidance to county and local leaders as they assess their needs and organize recovery activities,” said Frank Perry, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. “Whether it’s relief or recovery, communities can count on the full complement of tools and expertise we have at our disposal.”

As state officials work with federal and local partners to manage the dislocation left by the storm, new technologies are helping gauge damage to homes, businesses and public buildings. Sophisticated computer modeling and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for example, enable officials to quickly assess property damage, which in turn helps predict the scale of relocation and recovery efforts for impacted residents.

Risk management professionals at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management can use computer-based floodplain models to predict both the rise and retreat of floodwaters. The system, implemented after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, identified 313,000 buildings in North Carolina that are located within the 100-year floodplain. The state’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) calculate the impact of rising waters on residential, non-residential and governmental buildings like schools and prisons. An interface with county property records then puts a dollar value on the likely damage.

Manned and unmanned aircraft verify computer-based projections. “This is the first time we’ve used UAVs in a disaster-related event,” said Gary Thompson, chief of the North Carolina Geodetic Survey. UAVs inspected levees around Princeville today and earlier this week they flew over the Woodlake Dam to gauge the potential for a breach.

“These vehicles enable us to quickly assess a situation without putting people in danger,” Thompson said. In using UAVs as a tool for emergency management efforts, Thompson’s team works closely with the NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) program at North Carolina State University and the Aviation Division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Dial 2-1-1 to speak with a trained call specialist about questions you have regarding Hurricane Matthew; the service is free, confidential and available in any language. They can help direct you to resources. Call 5-1-1 for the latest road conditions or check the ReadyNC mobile app, which also has real-time shelter and evacuation information. For updates on Hurricane Matthew impacts and relief efforts, go to or follow N.C. Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook. People or organizations that want to help ensure North Carolina recovers can visit or text NCRecovers to 30306.


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