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NOAA Predicts Above Normal Hurricane Season

NOAA's predictions follow two earlier forecasts, one by Colorado State University and one by The Weather Co.

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(TNS) - The nation's climate agency Thursday predicted an above-normal 2017 hurricane season with 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine of them hurricanes and two to four Category 3 or higher hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a 45 percent chance of the hurricane season that begins June 1 being above normal, a 35 percent chance of a normal season and a 20 percent chance of a below normal season. An average season is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

"The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Bell said a strong El Nino causes more intense wind shear, which tends to break up tropical disturbances before they can grow into a hurricane. He cautioned that chances were 50-50 that a stronger El Nino could develop later in the hurricane season, which ends Nov.  30.

He said NOAA's predictions had a 70 percent chance of being correct. NOAA plans to update its outlook in early August, shortly before the peak of the hurricane season.

NOAA's predictions follow two earlier forecasts, one by Colorado State University and one by The Weather Co.

Colorado State University in April predicted 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Bell said NOAA does not issue an April prediction because conditions could significantly change by June.  The university is scheduled to issue a revised prediction June 1.

The Weather Co. on May 22 predicted 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

All three predictions include Tropical Storm Arlene, a rare pre-season storm that formed in April.

The United States has had a long run of good luck, said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. "It's been a record 12 years since a Category 3 or higher storm has hit the United States, Friedman said.

A Category 3 storm has winds of from 111 mph to 129 mph.

"Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives," said Robert J. Fenton, acting Federal Emergency Management Administration  administrator.

Fenton advised coastal residents to prepare for hurricane season by having a family discussion about what to do, where to go and how to communicate among family members when a storm threatens.  He also said it's important to know the evacuation route, tune into local news or download an app from FEMA at that issues alerts.

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