The Storm

About the Film:

Hurricane Katrina and the disastrous flooding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have left many wondering what went wrong. Some claim there was insufficient planning and others say that there was no clear line of authority between the levels of government, thus paralyzing the decision-making process. On Sept. 7, 2005, a bipartisan joint committee was established to review the response of state, local and national governments to Hurricane Katrina. Their report to Congress is to be given no later than Feb. 15, 2005. Media coverage of the investigation reveals a political struggle for post-Katrina leverage by playing a "blame game." FRONTLINE's documentary "The Storm" investigates why decades of hurricanes and disaster planning still left New Orleans so unprepared for Hurricane Katrina. Veteran producers Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith journey from New Orleans to Washington and across the stricken Gulf Coast region, examining the impact of communications systems' failures on hurricane victims.

Watching the Film:

Teachers can either assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class. Suggested discussion questions are provided. The featured lesson and activities in this guide can be used regardless of whether or not the film is viewed.

A Note to Teachers:

For classes in Social Studies, Language Arts, Current Events, and History; Grade level 9th-12th

"The Storm" chronicles over 40 years of federal responses to Gulf Coast hurricanes and their effectiveness. The teaching activities are designed to help students evaluate how government helps citizens in times of crisis and examine how prepared students and their communities are for future natural disasters. Although the program and featured lesson plan focuses on the impact of Katrina on New Orleans, it is important to remind students that many communities on the Gulf Coast were devastated.

Discussion Questions:

A list of questions for students to discuss after viewing "The Storm."

Featured Lesson Plan:

"Playing the Blame Game"
Students will become familiar with:

Additional Lesson Ideas:

How a Major Hurricane Impacts a City
Students will compare the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 to Hurricane Katrina.

Is Your Community Prepared for a Natural Disaster?
Students will become familiar with different types of natural disasters, how to prepare for them and where these disasters are most likely to occur.

In the First Person
Students will write a story describing the effects of Hurricane Katrina from the perspective of someone directly affected by the hurricane.

Literature Connection: Their Eyes Were Watching God
Students will read about the impact of a flood and hurricane on the main character in Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston.

Additional Resources:

An annotated list of relevant Web sites.

Purchasing the Film:

"The Storm" can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site: http://www.pbs.org/frontline/storm/


This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Patricia Grimmer, Carbondale High School, Carbondale, Illinois. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt of University High School, San Francisco and Greg Timmons, curriculum writer/educational consultant.