Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Human and Natural Hazard Impacts: Hurricanes

The Problem



My family planned a beach vacation one summer and there was a hurricane warning while we were there.  We were very nervous!  We didn't know if we should evacuate or if or house would hold up okay.  My mom shared about a hurricane named Hugo that hit way inland when she was in high school.  We decided to make the most of the situation and turn this stress into a learning opportunity, so we started googling information and found out about a major hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900.  

We learned that it hit on September 8, 1900 when the residents of Galveston, Texas were warned of the coming storm and by the morning of the 9th, 8000 people were lost to the storm.  That was 1 out of every 5 residents of the city.  They were rocked by a hurricane so big it is referred to as “The Great Storm”.  This storm is still considered the most deadly natural disaster to ever hit the United States.  

So how do people who live there year round deal with hurricanes and tropical storms?  Hurricanes are storms, whose wind can flip cars over, tear homes apart and sink cities?  Have you ever seen one? Do you realize that everything in the universe moves constantly and nothing in the universe is at rest?  Forces cause changes in that motion like speeding up, slowing down and change of direction. 

I also learned that in 2010, 123.3 million people, or 39 percent of the nation's population lived in counties directly on the shoreline. This population is expected to increase by 8% from 2010 to 2020.




storm damage

emergency preparedness

natural disaster damage

weather forecasting

coastal population

hurricane construction

hurricane forecasting

global warming

storm surges

tropical cyclones

Atmospheric pressure

Barometric pressure

Eye of the hurricane


Tropical depression





Tropical Storm


Books and Videos

Global Issues in Context

Database Articles

Science in Context

"Hurricane-hunting Coyote ready for duty." Flight International 16 Feb. 2016. Science in Context. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Scriber, Brad. "Name, name, go away." National Geographic Oct. 2015. Science in Context. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Hurricanes." Environmental Encyclopedia. Gale, 2011. Science in Context. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Hurricane Hunters." NASA Videos 2010. Science in Context. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Global Issues in Context

"Global Warming: The Culprit? Evidence mounts that human activity is helping fuel these monster hurricanes". (2006). In Brenda Lerner & K. Lerner (Eds.), Environmental Issues: Essential Primary Sources (pp. 139-142). Detroit: Gale.

In Harm's Way: Hurricanes, Population Trends and Environmental Change. (2006). In Brenda Lerner & K. Lerner (Eds.), Environmental Issues: Essential Primary Sources (pp. 415-418). Detroit: Gale.

Emergency Management Department

You have just taken a job with the Emergency Management Department in a coastal city in Texas. As a member of the Public Awareness Team, you must create resources that citizens in the community can use to learn about the dangers of hurricanes and how to prepare for them.

Create a chart on the stages of hurricane formation
Create a classification of hurricanes guide
Create a visual guide (graphic) for using a tracking map
Explain the differences between a hurricane warning and a hurricane watch and explain what should be done when either is issued
Include an overview of the four main hurricane hazards (High winds, storm surge, heavy rains, tornadoes)
Include a section on preparedness tips (Preparing home and yard for a hurricane strike, evacuation supplies/food and cost, (Spreadsheet) evacuation shelters, issues with pets)

I wonder

What do air pressure, water, wind and water currents have to do with hurricanes?  Do they affect the formation, motion and direction of hurricanes?  Does geography have anything to do with Hurricanes considering they occur in Texas and North Carolina for sure?  How we can better predict the path of a hurricane? What technology is there and how far out can they warn people living in an area that might be in the path?

How can we build structures that will not sustain as much damage in a hurricane? Are some houses better able to withstand a hurricane than others?  Is using metal as opposed to wooden support beams more protective?  Does living in a one story house keep you safer than living in a 2 story house?  Does designing a home that is wind resistant provide better protection than a standard shape? Are some houses better able to withstand a hurricane than others?

What is your hypothesis?  What are your variables?


Hurricanes are giant, spiraling tropical storms that can pack wind speeds of over 160 miles (257 kilometers) an hour and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons (9 trillion liters) of rain a day. These same tropical storms are known as cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and as typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean.

The Atlantic Ocean’s hurricane season peaks from mid-August to late October and averages five to six hurricanes per year.

Hurricanes begin as tropical disturbances in warm ocean waters with surface temperatures of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 degrees Celsius). These low pressure systems are fed by energy from the warm seas. If a storm achieves wind speeds of 38 miles (61 kilometers) an hour, it becomes known as a tropical depression. A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm, and is given a name, when its sustained wind speeds top 39 miles (63 kilometers) an hour. When a storm’s sustained wind speeds reach 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour it becomes a hurricane and earns a category rating of 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Hurricanes are enormous heat engines that generate energy on a staggering scale. They draw heat from warm, moist ocean air and release it through condensation of water vapor in thunderstorms.

Hurricanes spin around a low-pressure center known as the “eye.” Sinking air makes this 20- to 30-mile-wide (32- to 48-kilometer-wide) area notoriously calm. But the eye is surrounded by a circular “eye wall” that hosts the storm’s strongest winds and rain.

These storms bring destruction ashore in many different ways. When a hurricane makes landfall it often produces a devastating storm surge that can reach 20 feet (6 meters) high and extend nearly 100 miles (161 kilometers). Ninety percent of all hurricane deaths result from storm surges.

A hurricane’s high winds are also destructive and may spawn tornadoes. Torrential rains cause further damage by spawning floods and landslides, which may occur many miles inland.

The best defense against a hurricane is an accurate forecast that gives people time to get out of its way. The National Hurricane Center issues hurricane watches for storms that may endanger communities, and hurricane warnings for storms that will make landfall within 24 hours.


Coastal Population of the United States


Science in Context

EBSCO databases

Provided by the Kansas State Library, this resource includes: Student Research Center; EBSCOhost Research Databases; Consumer Health Complete; Literary Reference Center;Auto Repair Reference Center;Novelist Plus; and Small Business Reference Center.