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US forecasters call for near-normal Atlantic hurricane season


(Reuters) – The Atlantic hurricane season will bring an average number of ocean storms and hurricanes this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday.

NOAA forecasters estimate 12 to 17 named storms of which five to nine of those will develop into hurricanes and one to four will become major hurricanes during the June 1 to Nov. 30 season.

A tropical storm brings sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour, a hurricane has winds of at least 74 mph and major hurricanes pack winds of at least 111 miles per hour and can bring devastating damage.

Last year broke a six-year string of above-normal hurricane seasons with the strongest that year being Hurricane Ian, which spawned 150 mph winds and hit Florida and South Carolina.

There is a 40% chance of a normal hurricane season and 30% chances each of an above-average or below-average season, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a media briefing.

NOAA estimates a 93% chance of an El Nino weather phenomenon during the core hurricane season, said Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA’s lead hurricane forecaster.

During El Nino, winds blowing west along the equator slow down, and warm water is pushed east, creating warmer surface ocean temperatures and the potential for stronger storms.