In two weeks, the 2006 hurricane season will officially begin -- and it may well be different from recent years.
The good news, experts say, is that due to a cyclical pattern, the hard-hit Gulf Coast most likely will escape the devastation it experienced last season.
"We're projecting two-thirds of activity of last year, not as much as last year," said Dr. Bill Gray, a hurricane expert at Colorado State University.
The bad news is that the concentration of hurricane activity is predicted to move up the eastern seaboard this season.
"We think that the mid to latter part of the season, the heart of the hurricane season, is going to be an especially busy one along eastern seaboard," said Joe Bastardi, a hurricane forecaster at Accuweather.
"We see conditions off the eastern seaboard -- above normal water temperatures -- that indicate that this might be where hurricanes will be headed," added another Accuweather hurricane forecaster, Bernie Rayno.
One of the worst-case scenarios is a hurricane hitting the Northeast.
"Particularly New York City, if one of these category 3 storms came in with a large storm surge, that'd cause tremendous flooding in New York," Gray said. "Subways flooded away. Underground electronics [saturated]. That would be a major disaster for the Northeast."
The North Carolina coast, southern New England, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware are projected hot zones of hurricane activity for this coming season.
"It could bring a large storm surge, massive damage to New England even if it's category 3 like the famous storm of 1938," said Gray.
Back then, amid a similar weather pattern, a "50 to 100 foot wall of water came across the Hamptons, devastated everything," Bastardi said. "Providence was under water. [There was] tremendous flooding in Connecticut River valley."
Coming Off a Record Year
The Gulf of Mexico was hit earliest and hardest this past hurricane season, but this year it may well escape a major blow. It is possible that New Orleans, still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, could be hit again, but experts predict that would be rather unlikely.
A record-breaking number of tropical storms and major hurricanes hit the Atlantic Coast last season, the strongest of which -- Katrina, Dennis, Wilma and Rita -- slammed the western Gulf Coast. They were the some the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in history.
Experts say 17 storms and nine hurricanes -- including five major hurricanes -- could inflict damage this season. That's fewer than the 28 named storms, 13 hurricanes and seven major hurricanes last year.