An online map at gis.calhouncounty.org/StormDamage/ first presents the storm damage with a pink slash highlighting the storms’ paths across northern Calhoun County. Then, with a few clicks, it reveals what the tornado did to the landscape. And by dragging the mouse across the screen, users can in effect peel back time to reveal what the land looked like before the storms crossed the county.
Robert Scheitlin, Calhoun County’s graphic information system manager, crafted the unique before-and-after map using aerial images taken in March of 2010 and on May 5.
To safeguard property owners in Calhoun County, Scheitlin is preventing property owners’ names and contact information from being released, as is noted on the site. Scheitlin said he was careful to ensure the site would not become a gateway for those who might want to capitalize on victims’ circumstances.
Indeed, shortly after the site went live this month, a caller sought access to property owner’s names and phone numbers. After learning Scheitlin would not release the information, the person tried a written appeal, to no avail.
“A lot of people are going to be using it to get good information and a lot of people are going to try to use it for all the wrong reasons,” Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges said.
More constructively, the site is also being used as a tool. Thursday, officals managing the recovery viewed the site to pinpoint waterways that might be obstructed by fallen trees. And the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency has been using the site to show the before-and-after images to officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“It’s wonderful to be able to go to one site and with the dragging of the mouse see the extent of damage,” Marissa Brimer, Emergency Management spokeswoman said. “It’s a much quicker process to show them from the air the path of the tornado.”
Scheitlin said he has considered providing images that would show the progression of the recovery, too. That will only happen, however, if money is available through the Revenue Commissioner’s Office from which his office is funded.
“It’s a question of whether or not it’s in the best interest of the state and the revenue commissioners office,” Scheitlin said.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.