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Will Hurricane Season Mean a Lot of Hot Air for Norwalk?

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — It’s been a busy seven months or so, meteorologically speaking. From Hurricane Irene in September to the freakish October snowstorm and the 80-plus degree days in March, the weather in Fairfield County has been eventful.

And with the beginning of hurricane season right around the corner on June 1, the prospect of churning seas, floods, high winds and more power outages seems downright frightening. Not to mention the fact that the first storm of the season -- Alberto -- already threatened to make an early appearance on the horizon (it never made landfall).

As to the rest of the upcoming hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just released its official prediction: “NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA's Jane Lubchenco on the NOAA website.

“In general, current conditions have a lot of influence on subsequent weather,” said Chris Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “If you start out warm at the beginning of summer, and it gets warmer, then you have a hot summer.”

But does that translate into hurricanes? Burke cites a recent study by Colorado State University meteorologists William Gray and Phil Klotzbach that predicts reduced activity. “We anticipate a below-average probability of major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and the Caribbean.”

But the study also says, “It only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season, and [coastal residents] need to prepare the same for every [hurricane] season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”

Klotzbach and Gray predict that tropical cyclone activity in 2012 will be about 75 percent of the average season. By comparison, tropical activity in 2011 — when there were 19 named storms — was 145 percent of the average season.

The last time four or fewer hurricanes developed was in 2009, when three hurricanes formed. Before that, in 2002, three hurricanes developed.

But WTNH-TV’s morning meteorologist Gil Simmons demurs on the topic of predicting the strength or weakness of a hurricane season this far out. “It is early to assess the season ahead. I think it can mislead people about the importance of preparation because it only takes one storm to have a huge impact.”

“Less activity does not mean a lower landfall threat," ” said Simmons. "Hurricane Andrew didn't form until mid-August, and it leveled southeast Florida.” This summer marks the 20th anniversary of that devastating storm.

With all the dramatic weather we have endured, we should at least be better prepared for the possibility that there is more to come, hurricane season notwithstanding.

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