US government forecasters said Thursday that they expect an active Atlantic hurricane season - an announcement that came as odds increased that the first tropical weather system of the year was forming in the Gulf of Mexico.
One to four of those hurricanes could be "major" with threatening winds blowing at at least 111mph.
"The outlook suggests we will have a near- or above-normal hurricane season", said Neil Jacobs, assistant secretary of Commerce for Environmental Prediction and Observation at NOAA.
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Dr. Lian Xie says there is conflicting data this year-one model says the season will only be slightly more active than usual, while another is predicting many more storms.
This season's forecast calls for 10 to 16 named storms, which means tropical storms or hurricanes.
Past year a total of 17 named storms passed through the Atlantic, including 10 hurricanes.
Tropical storms have sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or above, and hurricanes have winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Puerto Rico braced for potentially calamitous flash flooding after being pummeled by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island and knocked out the entire electricity grid.
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The most active Atlantic hurricane seasons during recent years were in 2010 and 2012.
Bell said there's a 70 percent probability that the season's hurricanes will fall within the forecast range.
In calling for an average season, scientists cited two factors. A TIME examination of the past 15 years of NOAA's forecasts found that the agency's predictions of the number of significant storms, which are provided as high and low estimates, are usually correct or close to correct, with some major exceptions.
Tallied together, 16 major weather disasters in the United States, including hurricanes, cost the U.S. $306.2 billion in 2017, shattering the previous cost record of $214.8 billion in 2005, said NOAA. And even if they do arrive as predicted, it's impossible to say for sure how many storms such conditions will produce. "Now is the time to start preparing for this hurricane season". And as if on cue, there is a system already brewing in the southern Gulf of Mexico, which could develop into the season's first named storm. A storm only gets a name when the sustained wind speeds reach 39 miles per hour, a NOAA spokesperson told Newsweek.
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