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September 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Determining the road to recovery and the role of climate change

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  • Seven million Floridians remain without power and millions more in the Caribbean after Hurricane Irma struck those areas over the last week.
  • At least 34 people have died in the Caribbean, five in Florida and two in Georgia.
  • Hurricane Irma, which weakened to a tropical storm on Monday, resulted in record and historic flooding. The storm devastated parts of the Florida Keys and many residents of the Caribbean islands had to be evacuated after the storm.
  • The biggest thing that we want our residents to understand is that it is still dangerous to be out in the street. And for us to clean streets and do so in a safe way, it is best to not have people driving around,” said Daniel Alfonso, Miami’s city manager.
  • The U.S. has never been hit by two Category 4 or stronger hurricanes in the same season since we began collecting records in 1851. Various factors including the direction and ferocity of the wind, warm Atlantic ocean temperatures and high levels of moisture in the air.

Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: What is the role of government in recovery efforts after an extreme weather event, like Hurricane Irma?
  2. Why is it dangerous to be outside and on the roads even after a hurricane dissipates?
  3. Why do you think some residents stayed in their homes instead of heeding the evacuation order by authorities? Do you agree with the residents’ decision? Why or why not?
  4. Have you experienced an extreme weather event before? What did your family do to help prepare? How did local or state officials keep you updated on the storm’s progress?

Extension activities
  1. Read First Harvey, now Irma. Why are so many hurricanes hitting the U.S.? The U.S. has never been hit by two Category 4 or stronger hurricanes in the same season since we began collecting records in 1851.
    • What are the main reasons cited in the article for the increase in hurricanes?
    • What role does climate change play in the severity of extreme weather events?
    • What should the government and individuals do to help understand why hurricanes will continue to be a serious problem to come?
    • Are hurricanes preventable? Not sure? What additional research should you do if you want to find out more about extreme weather events?
  2. Watch the PBS NewsHour story Paradise obliterated by Irma in the British Virgin Islands in order to help students understand the full scope of Hurricane Irma.
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