COLLEGE PARK, MD - Get ready for another busy hurricane season, maybe unusually wild, federal forecasters say.
Their prediction Thursday calls for 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms, 7 to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and 3 to 6 that become major hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is a 70 percent chance that this year will be more active than an average hurricane season.
If you live in hurricane prone areas along the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico coasts, "This is your warning," acting NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said.
A normal year has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major storms with winds over 110 mph.
Last year was the third-busiest on record with 19 named storms. Ten became hurricanes and were two major storms. That included Sandy, which caused $50 billion in damage even though it lost hurricane status when it made landfall in New Jersey.
All the factors that go into hurricane forecasts are pointing to an active season, or extremely active one, said lead forecaster Gerry Bell of the Climate Prediction Center.
Those factors include: warmer than average ocean waters that provide fuel for storms, a multi-decade pattern of increased hurricane activity, the lack of an El Nino warming of the central Pacific Ocean, and an active pattern of storm systems coming off west Africa.
The Atlantic hurricane season goes through about 25 to 40 year cycles of high activity and low activity. The high activity period started around 1995, Sullivan said.
The forecasts don't include where storms might land, if any place. Despite the formation of more hurricanes recently, the last time a major hurricane made landfall in the United States was Wilma in 2005. That seven-year stretch is the longest on record.
The six-month season starts June 1. Forecasters name tropical storms when their top winds reach 39 mph; hurricanes have maximum winds of at least 74 mph.
This year's names: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van and Wendy.