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Tropical Ecology Institute


Hurricanes at the Beach: Impacting Belize and North Carolina

Grade Level: 9-12

Author: Rosemary Klein, Davidson, NC


As we make connections between North Carolina and Belize, it is fascinating to discover how many things we have in common—pine-covered mountains, beaches, many species of birds and other assorted wildlife, a rich and diverse heritage, and a common language. As a result of some of our geographic commonalities, we are subject to the same natural hazards. Because of the difference in our socio-economic situations, the effect of these hazards is quite different in our two countries. This lesson will explore how hurricanes impact these two countries in different ways. It will focus on the beach communities of Topsail Island, North Carolina and Placencia, Belize.


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Atlases
  • Almanacs
  • Encyclopedias
  • Current periodicals


Students will:

  • understand the effects of a hurricane on the lives of people
  • compare the effects of a hurricane in two different geographical areas


Step 1:

In small groups, have students explore general information about hurricanes, using the following sites:

Discuss with students the geographical areas in which hurricanes are likely to strike and have them locate Topsail Beach, North Carolina and Placencia, Belize. Discuss the likelihood that these towns might be hit by a hurricane. In your discussion, have students predict the impact of hurricane on these towns. Will there be a difference?

Step 2:

Have teams of students research the damage caused by Hurricane Iris in Placencia using the following sites:

Have teams of students research the damage caused by Hurricane Fran in Topsail Beach:

Discuss the differences in the severity of the damage. Placencia was pretty much destroyed, while Topsail Beach was able to recover fairly easily.

Step 3:

Using online or offline resources such as almanacs, have teams of students research the following information about Belize and North Carolina—one team for each category.

  • Total population
  • Population density
  • Per capita GNP
  • Typical building materials
  • Literacy rate
  • Televisions per household
  • Doctors per person
  • Hospital beds per person

Have the teams of students present their information. Class discussion should focus on how each of these categories affects the communities’ ability to be informed about an impending disaster, as well as their ability to recover from it. What adaptations can communities make to lessen the impact of a hurricane?


Students should respond individually or as a small group to the following prompt:

Emergency management officials in the town of Placencia have hired you to help them prepare for emergencies. Your job is to prepare a report for these officials. Based on what you have learned about hurricanes, you will predict whether Placencia is likely to see another hurricane. You will also present a detailed plan to the town with suggestions to improve their preparation for hurricanes.

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