Idea for Use in Classroom

Have students use the infographic to investigate the formation and movement of some of the most notorious hurricanes from the last twenty years, focusing on the general origin and direction of the hurricane paths. Task students with comparing and contrasting how the category designation changed along each hurricanes’ path. As they read over the infographic, have students answer the following questions:

  • Which hurricanes gained wind strength as they moved closer to land? Which hurricanes lost wind strength?
  • Did any of the hurricanes sustain their wind strength throughout their entire path?
  • What does this indicate about hurricanes?

Then, using the infographic, have students work in cooperative groups to identify and compare the strengths of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Katrina, Maria, and Sandy at landfall. Instruct students to record any trends or patterns that they notice.

Bring the class back together and facilitate a discussion in which students share their findings. Ask students:

  • Why did a Category 1 hurricane make the list of costliest storms?
  • What does this indicate about the hurricane’s strength and location at landfall?
  • What does this tell you about the hurricane classification system?

To extend their learning, encourage students to research how the total cost of a hurricane is calculated, how hurricanes are named and when names are retired, how organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded during each of the hurricanes, and who was responsible for the repair costs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

U.S. Homeland Security agency responsible for coordinating response and aid distribution after natural and manmade disasters.


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.