After a major disaster, a satellite image or a collection of aerial photography is frequently the fastest, most effective way to determine the scope and severity of the event. With that goal, the USGS operates the Hazards Data Distribution System (HDDS) to process and deliver satellite and aerial imagery in near-real time during natural or human-caused disasters (e.g., hurricanes or oil spills). For example, after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005, Landsat images showed when and where the floodwaters drained. High-resolution satellite imagery showed the landscape and building damage after a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. More recently, USGS used satellite imagery to help assess the scope of damage from the 2013 Colorado floods and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The imagery is available to all emergency management officials at the Federal, State, local, Tribal, and international levels.
Civil Air Patrol browse image showing damaged structure from the September 2013 Colorado floods, as displayed in the Hazard Data Distribution System.