GIS response to 2011 storm events

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On June 21st, a powerful storm with wind gusts as high as 81 mph
swept through Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. The severe weather
prompted tornado warnings, stopped air and train travel, and caused
extensive tree damage along with widespread power outages. Commonwealth
Edison (ComEd) estimated that almost a quarter of a million customers
lost power. Another equally violent storm struck the area again on July
11th. The severe winds and heavy rains left more than 700,000 ComEd
customers without power. GIS played a large role in the response to
these events. Here are several examples from GISC member communities:

  • Village of Elk Grove Village: Tree collection zones were displayed
    in MapOffice™ Advanced to assist in the coordination of tree, limb and
    leaf pickup and disposal.
  • Village of Morton Grove: Downed trees were photographed and
    inventoried to get a big picture of how the storms affected the Village.
  • City of Des Plaines: A series of maps was created to show blocked
    streets, downed traffic signals and power lines, and damaged properties.
    Large, wall-sized versions of these maps were printed and hung in the
    Emergency Operations Center to be used during status meetings that
    occurred throughout the day with all the City department heads. Smaller
    versions of these maps were created and placed on the internal network
    for reference. These smaller maps will also be included in an
    after-action report being compiled by the Emergency Management Agency to
    help illustrate the storm response actions taken by each department.
  • Village of Winnetka: The Village maintains its own electric system,
    so existing electric circuit maps were used by village crews and
    provided to crews from other municipalities to assist with reporting
    power outages. According to the Director of the Water and Electric
    Department, the circuit maps were invaluable to the success of the crews
    restoring power as quickly as they did. This was especially true for
    the crews that were unfamiliar with Village streets and electric circuit
    alignments.

GIS data, mapping and staff are critical to every phase of emergency
management, from mitigation and preparedness to response and recovery
efforts. Contact your local GIS Specialist to assure that your community
is fully leveraging its GIS when unexpected events occur.