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Hurricane season 2005 is here

The spring severe weather season is drawing to a close.

And boy, it was a pretty rough one!

But now temperatures are creeping up, humidity levels are rising, and those pop up afternoon storms are once again becoming the norm.

This can only mean one thing: summer is all but here.

And with the summer warmth comes a new season that, understandably, has some folks on edge.

Today begins the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, and from all indications, this year will be just as active as last year.

In fact, the government's forecasting office, known as NOAA, says there is a seventy percent chance that this season will be an above normal tropical season.

The outlook calls for 12-15 tropical storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, and three to five of these becoming major hurricanes.

But don't read too much into those numbers.

There's no reason, at this point, to run to the local lumber store to start boarding up or to clear out the groceries store shelves.

Just because water temperatures are conducive for another active year, that doesn't mean those storms will take aim on the United States or Butler County.

Last year, Florida was Mother Nature's preferred target, but one of those storms, the one we came to know as "Ivan the Terrible" decided to make his presence known here in South Alabama.

Winds of more than 75 miles per hour whipped through the area early on Sept. 16, 2004.

Visible scars remain around Greenville, and throughout the county, the legacy of Ivan.

But will we see another such storm this year?

As much as meteorologists who have issued their "outlook" for the new hurricane season would like, and as much as I'd like to tell everyone exactly when another tropical system will affect us, there is absolutely no way to forecast that.

We look for clues in global weather patterns, take into account climatology, and attempt to pin down similar characteristics between this year and last.

But, as we all know, Mother Nature will do what she wants, when she wants.

Hurricane Opal was the last storm to affect South Alabama in a big way prior to Ivan.

That's a nine year period where Alabama was not dramatically affected by a landfalling hurricane.

So, to say that this hurricane season will be a bad one is one thing, but to say that a ferocious storm like Ivan or Opal will impact Alabama this year

is going a bit far.

Nonetheless, you've heard the saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure."

You and your family should develop an emergency action plan like having plenty of batteries for flashlights and radios – just in case another tropical system blows through this summer, and make sure you keep up with the latest weather forecasts.

The CBS 8 First Alert Weather Team is committed to keeping you safe from the storm this hurricane season.

So, as you throw some more hamburgers on the grill to begin the start of summer and as you sit back in your lawn chair sipping on a cool glass of lemonade, keep in mind the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are churning.

If you prepare for now, you won't have to endure uncharted waters if another hurricane tracks this way.

Welcome to the new season — whether another hurricane affects us or not!

David Baxley is a meteorologist with WAKA-TV CBS 8 in Montgomery.

He may be reached at 334-420-3253 or dbaxley@waka.com.