Lights Out in Michael’s Wake

Lights Out in Michael’s Wake
Lights Out in Michael’s Wake

After making landfall as a category 4 storm on October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael knocked out power for at least 2.5 million customers in the southeastern United States, according to the Edison Electric Institute. These images of nighttime lights in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama come from the Suomi NPP satellite and were acquired on October 6 and October 12, 2018.

The first set of images (above) shows a natural view of night lights from the “day-night band” (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The DNB detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared, and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight.

The second pair of images is a data visualization of where lights went out in Panama City, Florida. A team of scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center processed and corrected the raw data to filter out stray light from the Moon, fires, airglow, and any other sources that are not electric lights. Their processing techniques also removed other atmospheric interference, such as dust, haze, and thin clouds. The images show conditions on October 6 and October 12, 2018.

To make the VIIRS data more useful to first responders, the Goddard team scaled the observations onto a base map that emphasizes the locations of streets and neighborhoods. The base map makes use of data collected by the Landsat and Sentinel-2 satellites. It also incorporates high-resolution data from OpenStreetMap to show the precise locations of streets and neighborhoods.

As it cut a swath of destruction across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, Hurricane Michael knocked out power and telecommunications to millions of Americans on October 10-11. By the morning of October 15, news sources and power companies were reporting that the number of customers without power was down to roughly 240,000, mostly in Florida. An estimated 35,000 electric power industry workers from 27 states and Canada were helping with the recovery effort. Power outages in some areas are expected to last weeks to months because some power grids need to be completely rebuilt.

Editor’s Note: Images and maps on this page reflect conditions as of October 12, 2018, which have improved in many places since then. The high-definition data visualization maps are experimental and designed to make it easier to monitor power outages on a neighborhood scale. They should not be used to monitor power outages in individual buildings, homes, or roads. For more information, please check the NASA Disasters Program website.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and VIIRS Black Marble HD data courtesy of Miguel Román and Ranjay Shrestha, NASA/GSFC. Story by Mike Carlowicz.

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