Bad news for those who've been hoping the last hurricane season was a fluke. The director of the National Hurricane Center says there's no reason to expect any relief in the near future.

In fact, the El Nino effect could stir up even more and bigger hurricanes in 2006 than in 2005, Max Mayfield warned a conference of insurance adjusters in Orlando.

Homeowners in hurricane-prone areas should prepare now for the next storm season, Mayfield said. Minor repairs, like loose shingles, need to be taken care of before the next hurricane hits or major damage may result.

Mayfield also expressed concern about homeowners' reluctance to evacuate when hurricanes are approaching. He noted that only 10 percent of residents in the Florida Keys, for example, heeded evacuation orders.

"If it looks like there is going to be a tidal surge, you have to flee the water, according to Insurance Journal. "If there is a large storm surge, it doesn't matter how well a house is built, or what it is built from, the flooding is going to enter the house and no matter how tall you are, it won't help."

Storms Are Unpredictable

Although hurricane tracking procedures have become more accurate, Mayfield warned that the storms behave erratically and their paths are unpredictable.

Mayfield said he fears that one day we will expect a category one hurricane and wake up to a Katrina. He pointed out that while Katrina was in the Gulf of Mexico, it went within 24 hours from a category one hurricane to a category five, luckily losing strength before hitting land.

Essential Equipment

There's no question that homeowners should stock up on flashlights, candles, bottled water and other staples during hurricane season. But Mayfield adds an essential item to the list: an ax or hatchet.

If you decide to ride out a hurricane at home, you may need an ax to cut your way through the roof if water rises to the level of your attic. He noted that many of those who died in New Orleans drowned in their attics.

Mayfield also noted that not all of the flooded areas were affected by levee breaks.

"Some areas of New Orleans that were flooded had nothing to do with breaks in levees," Mayfield said. "Neither did any of those on the Mississippi coast."