Post-hurricane vegetative debris assessment using spectral indices derived from satellite imagery

Alican Karaer*, Mehmet Baran Ulak, Tarek Abichou, Reza Arghandeh, Eren Erman Ozguven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
175 Downloads (Pure)


Transportation systems are vulnerable to hurricanes and yet their recovery plays a critical role in returning a community to its pre-hurricane state. Vegetative debris is among the most significant causes of disruptions on transportation infrastructure. Therefore, identifying the driving factors of hurricane-caused debris generation can help clear roadways faster and improve the recovery time of infrastructure systems. Previous studies on hurricane debris assessment are generally based on field data collection, which is expensive, time consuming, and dangerous. With the availability and convenience of remote sensing powered by the simple yet accurate estimations on the vigor of vegetation or density of manufactured features, spectral indices can change the way that emergency planners prepare for and perform vegetative debris removal operations. Thus, this study proposes a data fusion framework combining multispectral satellite imagery and various vector data to evaluate post-hurricane vegetative debris with an exploratory analysis in small geographical units. Actual debris removal data were obtained from the City of Tallahassee, Florida after Hurricane Michael (2018) and aggregated into U.S. Census Block Groups along with four groups of datasets representing vegetation, storm surge, land use, and socioeconomics. Findings suggest that vegetation and other land characteristics are more determinant factors on debris generation, and Modified Soil-Adjusted Vegetation Index (MSAVI2) outperforms other vegetation indices for hurricane debris assessment. The proposed framework can help better identify equipment stack locations and temporary debris collection centers while providing resilience enhancements with a focus on the transportation infrastructure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-523
Number of pages20
JournalTransportation research record
Issue number12
Early online date11 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


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