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LIDAR helps Yellowstone reconstruction

Penny Preston

Yellowstone National Park scientists are using a unique tool to help them reconstruct the highways demolished by last year’s floods. LIDAR uses a laser to let researchers map the land surface under the trees, water, and ground cover.

Two years before historic floods wiped out sections of the roads inside Yellowstone’s North and Northeast Entrances, Park Geologist Dr. Jefferson Hungerford saw the completion of a project he had long envisioned: The LIDAR survey of the entire 2.2 million acres of the Park.

Hungerford described LIDAR as a, “… pulse of light, laser hitting the ground and being bounced back up to a receiver.”

Hungerford explained the receiver measures the time it takes for the pulse of light to bounce back, and uses that information to map the topography beneath the ground cover.

“Now we can actually use it to look at events like the 2022 flood event," he said. "We can go ahead and fly LIDAR again over those areas. It will quickly tell us, ‘How much of that bank did we lose during the flood event? Where did we move that channel to?’”

Hungerford said the surveys will help engineers plan the reconstruction of the road all the way to the Northeast Entrance, and help the design the road to withstand future flood events.

When Penny Preston came to Cody, Wyoming, in 1998, she was already an award winning broadcast journalist, with big market experience. She had anchored in Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Tulsa, and Fayetteville. She’s been a news director in Dallas and Cody, and a bureau chief in Fayetteville, AR. She’s won statewide awards for her television and radio stories in Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming. Her stories also air on CBS, NBC, NBC Today Show, and CNN network news.
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