"Hurricane season" is a time period when most hurricanes form over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 through November 30, peaking in late August and early September.
2005 was the most active hurricane season in recorded history. There were 28 or 29 storms and 15 hurricanes, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths and nearly $160 billion in damages. The Gulf Coast of the U.S. (including the states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida) and the Mexican states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan suffered the most damage.
The most powerful storm of the devastating 2005 season was, of course, Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed entire neighborhoods of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi. 
The American Red Cross relies on hurricane maps overlain with geographic information system (GIS) data to help organize and provide relief for those areas affected by disasters. This map traces the paths of 29 storms across the North Atlantic. The path of Hurricane Katrina is represented in red, snaking from the western Bahamas through the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi Valley.
Instructional Ideas
Have students study the American Red Cross map of the 2005 hurricane season. Use the "Questions" tab to work through basic map-reading skills (questions 1-5) and more critical-thinking discussions (questions 6-7).
  1. According to this map, how many named storms made landfall in the United States?

    • Answer

      Seven storms made landfall: Arlene, Cindy, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Tammy, and Wilma. Hurricane Ophelia didn't make landfall; it just skirted the shore of North Carolina.

  2. According to the map, how many continents were affected by major storms during 2005's hurricane season?

    • Answer

      Four. Major storms or hurricanes made landfall in North America, Europe, and Africa. Major storms and hurricanes skirted the northern coast of South America.

  3. According to the map and map legend, what was the longest-lasting storm of 2005? Where do you think it caused the most damage?

    • Answer

      The longest-lasting storm of 2005 was Hurricane Ophelia, which lasted 12 days. Hurricane Ophelia skirted up the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada, and caused the most damage in the states of Florida and North Carolina, where it veered closest to land in its earliest and most-powerful stages.

  4. This map focuses on the named hurricanes of the 2005 hurricane season. Including too much information on a map can confuse readers, so cartographers decided to omit some data, such as the names of countries (besides the United States). Using this map, determine in what country Tropical Storm Jose made landfall.

    • Answer

      Jose made landfall in Mexico.

  5. This map also does not label bodies of water. What bodies of water are represented on this map? (The same map from Question 2 may help you.)

    • Answer

      The North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico are all represented on this map.

  6. Find the path of Hurricane Emily. Using the same map of ocean currents from Questions 2 and 3, explain how Emily may have been steered along this relatively flat path.

    • Answer

      Hurricane Emily loosely followed strong ocean currents from the tropical Atlantic Ocean westward through the Caribbean Sea.

  7. Hurricanes are not simply steered by ocean currents. Hurricane Katrina, for instance, took an abrupt "upswing" when it entered the Gulf of Mexico. What other factors do you think influence the paths of storms?

    • Answer

      Answers will vary! The state of the atmosphere and air circulation—winds, fronts, and high-pressure and low-pressure areas—are other forces that determine the movement of storm systems.

American Red Cross

nonprofit organization that provides resources to disaster victims.

Atlantic Ocean

one of Earth's four oceans, separating Europe and Africa from North and South America.

Plural Noun

(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.


any system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on the Earth's surface.

Gulf Coast

land in the United States surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.


tropical storm with wind speeds of at least 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour. Hurricanes are the same thing as typhoons, but usually located in the Atlantic Ocean region.

Hurricane Katrina

2005 storm that was one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

hurricane season

time of year when the risk of hurricanes is greatest. Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.


explanation of symbols and abbreviations used on a map, also known as a key.


an area within a larger city or town where people live and interact with one another.


severe weather indicating a disturbed state of the atmosphere resulting from uplifted air.

tropical storm

weather pattern of swirling winds over a center of low pressure above warm ocean waters. Tropical storms are less powerful than cyclones and hurricanes.