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These days, being a savvy home owner includes having a basic knowledge of meteorological conditions that could make or break you, your family and your home.

Just ask Gulf Coast residents.

In many cases, a lack of emergency preparedness exacerbated devastation caused by astronomical phenomenon that were forecast well in advance.

Weather conditions expected in 2006 could further hammer home that message, especially if property owners again fail to heed advisories like one issued last week by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Service.

The warning should serve as advice to property owners to either move from riskier areas, shore up property to protect it from harsher than normal weather or otherwise prepare for the worse and hope for the best.

Not unlike forecasts issued well before the 2005 hurricane season, NOAA announced the official return of a weather pattern known as La Niña.

Just as El Niño heats up the Pacific Ocean surface, cousin La Niña has an ocean surface cooling effect. Both generally exacerbate existing climatic trends, this is, normally hot arid areas suffer warmer temperatures and drought conditions and normally colder, moist regions get colder and wetter.

"In mid-January the atmosphere over the eastern North Pacific and western U.S. began to exhibit typical La Niña characteristics in response to the cooling in the tropical central Pacific Ocean," said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

"This pattern will favor continued drought in parts of the South and Southwest from Arizona to Arkansas and Louisiana, and above normal precipitation in the Northwest and the Tennessee Valley area."

Periodic precipitation in the drought areas and dryness in the stormy areas also are typical within the larger scale climate pattern described above, NOAA said.

NOAA also said La Niña events generally favor increased Atlantic hurricane activity, but because the current La Niña was only recently verified, it's too soon to tell how this particular La Niña will exacerbate the 2006 hurricane season.

"It is too early to say with confidence what effects this La Niña event will have on the 2006 hurricane season," said Jim Laver, director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

La Niña events recur approximately every three to five years. The last La Niña occurred in 2000-2001 and was a relatively weak event compared to the 1998-2000 event.

Keep in mind, during the landmark 2006 hurricane season, Mother Nature did not spawn a La Niña or EL Niño pattern.

The message is clear.

It's not about just including the Weather Channel in your couch surfing routine.

It's about not breathing a sign of relief when one bad weather season is over.

Another one is sure to follow.

Know when and where it'll hit. Prepare.

The sky won't all fall at once, but the pieces that do come crashing down can leave you homeless.

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