Question Sheet: Unnatural Disasters


Before reading:

  1. Where and when did you first hear about Hurricane Katrina? 
  2. Where in the United States are hurricanes most likely to hit land? Why?

During reading:

  1. Geologist Jeffrey Mount says, “The phrase ‘natural disaster’ misses the point.” What does he mean? 
  2. Why have fewer people died in natural disasters in recent years than previously in history? 
  3. What is a levee? How have levees changed New Orleans? 
  4. What makes levees potentially dangerous? 
  5. In what ways are researchers trying to prevent natural disasters like the one caused by Hurricane Katrina?

After reading:

  1. In what ways does the U.S. government prepare for natural disasters? See 
  2. Should people be forced to leave their homes if their community is threatened by a strong hurricane? Why or why not? 
  3. Why are floods both good and bad for coastal areas such as New Orleans? 
  4. Do you think the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina will keep most people from moving back to New Orleans? Why or why not? 
  5. Describe two changes that people in New Orleans should consider if and when the city is rebuilt. Explain how these changes might help avoid future disasters. 
  6. If you were to design and build a hurricane-resistant house, what features would it have that you probably wouldn’t find in a standard house? See (


The Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 killed more than 2,000 people. Describe what happened during this hurricane. Where and when did the hurricane make landfall? How strong was the hurricane? What factors led to the death of so many people? See (NOAA) or (Wikipedia).


  1. Stories about Hurricane Katrina are in many newspapers, on television, and on the radio. Find articles from two newspaper about the storm and compare them.

    Which do you think is a better article? Why? 

  2. Suppose that you are interviewing a survivor of Hurricane Katrina who now lives in your community. What five questions would you ask of that person?


The following table shows the maximum sustained wind speed of Hurricane Katrina day by day. Plot the data on a graph, with the date as the horizontal axis and the wind speed as the vertical axis.

Maximum sustained wind speed (miles per hour)
Aug. 23
Aug. 24
Aug. 25
Aug. 26
Aug. 27
Aug. 28
Aug. 29
Aug. 30

On what date was the hurricane’s wind speed highest? Between what dates was the largest one-day increase in the hurricane’s wind speed? the largest one-day percentage increase in wind speed?