What Cities are in Hurricane Irma's Path?


As Hurricane Irma makes its way through the Caribbean, and heads towards the United States, the big question on everyone's mind -- is the hurricane going to hit my city? Or, as some people like to say, "should I buy milk and bread?" Let's analyze and map some data to find out!

These days, there are lots of hurricane forecast maps to choose from. Here's an example from the New York Times website. It's a map of the forecasts from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, National Weather Service.

Like most maps on the web, they use a tile-based 'streetmap.' The more you zoom in, the more details (such as city names, and streets) you see. But in my experience, it's a lot of work to do all that zooming and panning. I prefer for my maps to show the desired level of detail from the start, without requiring the user to zoom and pan.

So, of course, I decided to create my own map! :)

First, I had to find a source of data for a hurricane forecast. I decided to go with one of the best - the NOAA National Hurricane Center. I found that they have a page where you can download shapefiles for various aspects of the hurricanes, and I downloaded the zip file that contains the 'Cone of Uncertainty' for Hurricane Irma. I unzipped the file, and then ran SAS' Proc Mapimport on the shapefile (al112017-034A_5day_pgn.shp). This gave me the latitude/longitude points along the edge of the cone, and I used a SAS data step to convert those points into an annotate polygon (using the 'poly' and 'polycont' functions). Next, I used Proc Ginside to determine which cities in the mapsgfk.world cities dataset were inside the cone polygon. I then used Proc GMap to create a choropleth map of the area of interest, and annotated the cities of interest, and the hurricane's 'cone of uncertainty' on the map.

The map turned out pretty nice! Notice that you can easily see (at a glance) which population centers fall within the cone. Here's a screen capture of the map, with mouse-over text showing that Cary (location of the SAS headquarters, and also where I live), is within the cone.

Well that was yesterday's (Sept 7) forecast. I downloaded the latest forecast this morning (Sept 8, al112017-037_5day_pgn.shp), and now the cone has moved west. Now Cary is no longer in the 'cone.' But my friend George, who is a boat captain in Key West, is now in the cone. (Batten down the hatches, George!) Below is a snapshot of the new map. You can click it to see the full-size map with the HTML mouse-over text if you click through this link.

With the new forecast track, it looks like North Carolina's coast is going to be spared a direct hit from this powerful hurricane. That's welcome news for all the people with houses and boats along the coast. And here's a picture of some boats, sitting peacefully on the water (photo by Karen M. Allen). Did I mention that I like boats? :-)

So, what are the takeaways for this blog post?

  • Hurricane forecasts can change from day to day.
  • SAS software can import shapefile polygons, and overlay them on a map.
  • SAS software can determine which points are inside of a custom polygon area.
  • And a custom map can help you analyze data much more quickly and easily than a generic map.

What features do you like to see in a hurricane-related map? (feel free to share in a comment)

This blog was reposted from the SAS Learning Post. Go there to view the original.

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

What Cities are in Hurricane Irma's Path?

Here's an example of using data and visualization to look at weather -- specifically, the possible path of Hurricane Irma. Does your city need to get ready?

Mapping Out the Next Robot Invasion

Where are all the robots today? Here's a look at a better data visualization to represent where in the US all the robots are.


Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/16/2017 5:32:44 PM
NO RATINGS

We finally got the temporary signs up in my town to let folks know that indeed this is a formerly lighted intersection. It took six days, but better late than never? And our curfew ended about the same time ending the danger of people cruising right through those dangerous cross highways.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/15/2017 5:09:19 PM
NO RATINGS

There are temporary stop signs on sawhorses all around St Petersburg.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/15/2017 4:59:14 PM
NO RATINGS

In my area, we got hit by the strong winds of the northeast quadrant of the eye as it passed over Lee and Hendry county, Fl. There was little physical damage to homes, but the flooding of low lying areas was a big problem for many days until water gradually receded. The strength of the wind and flooding results were not exactly as forecast surprising many while the electric outages was total in my county and five days later most people still have none.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/15/2017 4:52:27 PM
NO RATINGS

Here in my SW Florida area they suggest all electric won't be restored until about Sept 22. It will be interesting to see how accurate the forecast might be. We have less than half restored in my county so far.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/15/2017 4:50:48 PM
NO RATINGS

And note that lots of those traffic lights are painted black and not so visible even in daylight let alone night hours. And unless you are familiar with the intersections as a local resident or frequent traveler you're not always going to recognize what's a traffic light intersection. Authorities should make provisions to erect temporary stop signs for such emergencies.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/14/2017 7:42:43 PM
NO RATINGS

Hi Robert -  Can SAS software create detailed maps like Google Maps ?

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/13/2017 11:14:24 AM
NO RATINGS

The random lights are a real issue. They are to be treated as 4 way stop signs, but apparently many thinks that is only for other people. There have been a number of accidents. On my street there are two homes without power- it really looks almost random. Many businesses are still closed. Recovery will be slow.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/12/2017 10:42:08 PM
NO RATINGS

Having stoplights out is horrid for rush-hour traffic. Are businesses able to have adequate staff at work?

As to some buildings having power - could local generators be part of the explanation? I saw some satellite images for Florida before and after Irma. After looked like basically all the lights are out.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/12/2017 3:25:50 PM
NO RATINGS

They say 8 million of them are in FL. It is carzy as you go down a stree it seems like every other signal light is out. One building will have power and the one right next to it does not. I would love to see a logic diagram for the power grid here.

Re: Hurricanes
  • 9/12/2017 3:19:32 PM
NO RATINGS

@tomsg - Estimates are that 10 to 12 million customers are without power. If it's even half of that it will be weeks before most people have electricity back. Not good.

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