Comparing these two storms is like comparing apples and oranges (and there is an infographic that attempts this). The two storms hit landfall in two very different areas, areas with different natural surroundings, different city developments, and different populations. Hurricanes were expected in the Gulf, and so the areas had some sort of a set up against major storms. The gulf is also populated horizontally, and is on flat land. Meanwhile, the Northeast does not expect major Hurricanes like Sandy, especially not when combined with two other storms. They are much more densely populated per square foot, but fortunately, they are populated vertically. Unfortunately, they are a very technology centered environment, and so they were lost without power.
This infographic compares the storms in other ways. It compares the two as far as power, and its affects. Most of them turned out in favor of Katrina, proving Katrina to be the worst storm. But one has to think about the areas that the two hit. The two storms were nearly equally strong, but if Sandy had hit a primarily horizontal population, things may have been different. Also, the temperature may have been a factor. Snow doesn’t cause as many casualties as flooding, and the flooding that did occur can’t reach the tops of buildings the buildings in NYC.
Challenge your students to compare other storms and natural disasters, and discuss the differences between the natural disasters that lead to one being presumed worse than the other.