There's a damn good chance the Atlantic region will see five to nine hurricanes — including two to four of at least Category 3 strength — in the upcoming hurricane season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday unveiled its forecast for the 2017 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
Forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, compared to just a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season. They say there's a 70 percent chance of 11 to 17 named storms, where winds exceed 38 miles per hour. Two to four of these would become major hurricanes of at least Category 3 strength, in which winds exceed 111 miles per hour.
According to NOAA, an average Atlantic hurricane season sees 12 named storms and six hurricanes, of which three become major hurricanes. A weak El Niño and warm sea temperatures, which is the case this year, tend to fuel hurricanes, and a rare April storm formed over the eastern Atlantic, surprising forecasters.
But forecasters added a caveat to explain the wide range of storm numbers they are predicting:
"The climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season," NOAA said in its announcement.
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NOAA predicted a normal hurricane season for 2016, which turned out to be pretty accurate: Last year saw seven hurricanes, four of at least Category 3 intensity.
Until last year, the Gulf of Mexico had a remarkable streak without a hurricane that eclipsed 1,000 days before Hurricane Hermine struck Florida in September. Texas has not been struck by a major hurricane since Ike in 2008.