5 October 2017
Hurricane Maria: USGS landslide impact maps from Puerto Rico reveal the extent of the devastation
From across the Atlantic, the response of the White House to the Hurricane Maria disaster in Puerto Rico looks astonishing. With little fanfare, the USGS has now started to release maps of the impacts of landslides triggered by the hurricane, created through the analysis of satellite imagery. USGS staff are past masters at this sort of mapping, which is both challenging and time-consuming. They have released the first tranche of data, for a part of northwest Puerto Rico:-
It is important to note that this not a landslide map, it is a map of the impacts of landslides – i.e. the locations in which a landslide has affected a road, a building or another element of infrastructure. This is illustrated by one of the images that the USGS has released alongside the map:-
There are eight mapped impacts (the red dots) on this image, but far more landslides. Another example of the extent and impact of this event is this image, from the San Antonio Express-News, that shows multiple landslides and extremely high levels of damage in the upland areas of Puerto Rico:-
The Washington Post has published a rainfall map for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico:-
This suggests that the mapped area had some of the higher levels of rainfall, but this amount is replicated across much of the rest of the island. In turn, this suggests that similar levels of landslide damage are likely elsewhere.