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Updating land cover maps satellite images

Early this year, I drove from Arnaudville, Louisiana, to Morgan City, hoping to walk where I’d heard there was land.Arnaudville is in Cajun country, in the southern part of the state.My plan to purchase one of these analog tools to chart my course quickly proved quixotic.

There are still copies left over from their last printing, according to John Snead, cartographic manager at the Louisiana Geographic Survey, which created the map.

Digital maps have expanded our freedoms to roam, removing much of the fear and hassle inherent in exploring unfamiliar terrain by exponentially decreasing the chances we will become hopelessly lost.

The shape of Louisiana — to say nothing of the course of U. history — would be much different if not for the human efforts to hold the Mississippi River in place.

The deltas comprising Southeast Louisiana sit at the bottom of the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

A few days later Jeff and I worked together again, interviewing victims as they emerged from the floodwaters onto the elevated highway that runs through downtown New Orleans.

Jeff still ribs me for tripping over the same discarded corpse twice. But Katrina and its aftermath enveloped our lives, personally and professionally, and that continued to be the case even after we returned to our regular beats.Jeff had already been in the city for several days; most of the reporters who’d stayed through the storm, and witnessed the early horrors of Katrina, had taken a much deserved break that day or were filing other stories, essentially leaving us as an ad-hoc bureau of two.We went from the fire to a press conference being held by then mayor Ray Nagin. I wrote something about local cops committing suicide.A Breaux Bridge Shell station sold everything from Krispy Krunchy Cajun Recipe Chicken to faux taxidermy albino tiger heads, but no maps. By the time I got to the Patterson Truck Stop and Casino in Patterson (cell phone accessories and broccoli cheese bacon bites but, again, no maps) I had nearly arrived in Morgan City.The GPS and digital mapping tools built into smart phones and car dashboards have reduced demand for proper paper highway maps to the point of near extinction.We knew as much about crisis reporting then as we did about maps when Jeff started asking questions about Louisiana’s suspiciously unchanged boot over dinner a few years later. Jeff and I, like many of our colleagues, became defacto authorities on the disaster that dominated local news until 2010, when the BP oil spill kicked Katrina to the back seat.People who lived through Katrina wanted to compare notes. People who didn’t ask what happened got an earful anyway.This is what everyone heard: The disaster was manmade.A hurricane is the hand of a higher power, but the flood control structures that failed and caused so much death and destruction did so because human beings screwed up.While the kind of state map that might have been useful for navigation or perspective was elusive on the road to Morgan City, the image such maps project — the iconic “boot” shape everyone recognizes as Louisiana — was impossible to escape.The map’s outline was ubiquitous on my drive: on bumper stickers (with the boot standing in for the “L” in “Love”), engulfing T-shirt fronts (my favorite emblazoned with “I drove the Chevy to the levee but the levee was gone”), and glowing on Louisiana-shaped neon beer signs in barroom windows.

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