This satellite photo of Harvey’s flooding reveals the scope of the disaster from space

Deimos 1 2 satellite illustration earth airbus deimos imaging urthecast
An illustration of the Deimos-1 micro-satellite (left) and the very-high-resolution Deimos-2 satellite (right) orbiting Earth. Deimos Imaging; Airbus; Business Insider

Eastern Texas saw its first rays of sunshine in days on Wednesday. Deadly floodwaters there left by Hurricane Harvey and its stormy remnants are finally beginning to recede.

The open skies gave residents in Houston — an area devastated by record-breaking rainfall and flooding — their first sign of hope for recovery, and also allowed satellites in space clear views of the devastation.

Deimos-1 and Deimos-2, a pair of satellites owned and operated by a company called UrtheCast, have started beaming back their first images of Harvey flooding.

Drag the slider on the image below to compare before-and-after images; the left pane shows a Google Earth image dated to January 2017, and the right pane is an image of the same area taken by Deimos-2 on Wednesday. The new photo was taken in near-infrared, an invisible wavelength of light, so the green-blue colour represents water and red represents plants. 

The images show Interstate 69 near Humble, Texas, which is located northeast of Houston. Both cities are part of Harris County, one of the regions hardest-hit by flooding.

A swollen tributary of Lake Houston can be seen overtaking a bridge to the north. Nearby neighbourhoods and businesses also appear swamped by floodwaters.

Ana Isabel Martínez Molina, a spokesperson for Deimos Imaging, told Business Insider in an email that flooding can be seen much more clearly in near-infrared compared to visible-light images. “We hope to have better ones in the upcoming days,” she said, noting the partial cloud cover.