Lesson Plan

Hurricane Katrina and Disaster Response – Mini Lesson


Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in late August 2005, was one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history. Afterward, Gulf Coast states and the federal government attempted to rebuild. The effort in Louisiana was called the Road Home, a program primarily designed by the state, run by private contractors and funded with grants from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. The video explains how efforts toward a comprehensive and speedy recovery were compromised at virtually every turn. While some areas of New Orleans did come back, others did not. Another devastating storm, Hurricane Sandy, followed in 2012; recovery efforts were mired in the same difficulties.


Students will:

  • Describe the effects a major hurricane can have on communities.
  • Explain the ways in which the United States government and individual states respond to a crisis caused by natural disasters.
  • Discuss the balance between fraud prevention measures and efficient distribution of relief funds.
  • Geography
  • Civics & Government
  • Environment
  • Infrastructure
For Teachers

Introducing the Lesson

Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and other communities along the Gulf Coast in 2005, causing nearly 1,400 fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. New Orleans, which ranges in elevation from 20 feet above sea level to approximately 6 feet below sea level, was devastated when the levee system designed to protect the city failed.

A plan was formed to rebuild the city and provide federal funding to support residents, but inefficiencies and paperwork slowed the process. Areas lower on the socioeconomic scale experienced continued inequalities in funding. Many people had to move to other cities along the coast. Today, much of New Orleans has still not fully recovered or rebuilt.

While there were lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, many of the problems reoccurred when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. This video focuses on how residents should be supported after natural disasters, and how federal relief funds should be managed.

Essential Questions

  • After an environmental disaster, how should relief funds be managed?
  • How should the government balance fraud prevention measures and timely distribution of financial aid?
  • How can the response to natural disasters be improved?

Lesson Procedure

This mini lesson consists primarily of comprehension and discussion questions for students. An extension activity is also provided.

Questions for students:

  • Where did Hurricane Katrina make landfall? What was the strength of the storm?
  • What were the effects of the storm on the region?
  • What was the purpose of the Road Home program?
  • What hindered the effectiveness and efficiency of this program?
  • How did officials determine how much grant money an individual should receive? Was this equitable?
  • How did the lessons learned from Katrina affect the recovery process after Hurricane Sandy?
  • What is meant by red tape? Why do so many of the individuals affected by the natural disasters complain about the process?
  • The video indicates that states are responsible for the distribution of federal grants to homeowners. What might be the positives and negatives of this approach?

Extension Activity:

Imagine that a dangerous Category 5 hurricane has made its way through a Gulf Coast or Atlantic seaboard state, causing widespread devastation. You have been assigned to a government taskforce to create a relief plan for the residents of the affected communities. How do you determine the amount of funds individuals receive, who should be in charge, and how your plan will be managed?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath and Lessons in Dealing with Disaster"Retro Report 
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind ScaleNational Hurricane Center 
Mapping Katrina and Its AftermathThe New York Times 

Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Explain how economic decisions affect the well-being of individuals, businesses, and society.

Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.

Evaluate how political and economic decisions throughout time have influenced cultural and environmental characteristics of various places and regions.

Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.

Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.

Evaluate how changes in the environmental and cultural characteristics of a place or region influence spatial patterns of trade and land use.

Evaluate the consequences of human-made and natural catastrophes on global trade, politics, and human migration.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com