FORT COLLINS, Colo. – With the official start of the 2007 hurricane season only hours away, the bad news is that researchers backed up their prediction Thursday that nine hurricanes will form in Atlantic this season, and that five of them could be major.
The good news?
There's only a 50-50 chance that one will hit the east or gulf coasts.
That's the morning line according to researcher William Gray, who released his newest forecast showing an expectation for 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, five of them intense.
The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.
Gray, based at Colorado State University, described it as a very active season. He said there was a 74 percent chance of a major hurricane making landfall somewhere on the U.S. coast.
There is a 50 percent chance of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, according to the new forecast; the long-term average is 31 percent.
The chance of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast between the Florida Panhandle and Brownsville, Texas, is 49 percent; the long-term average is 30 percent. There is also an above-average chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean, according to the forecast.
Thursday's forecast was largely unchanged from Gray's last forecast, released in early April.
"We expect an above-average hurricane season," said Phil Klotzbach, a member of Gray's team and lead author of the forecast.
The Atlantic hurricane season averages 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.
There were 10 named Atlantic storms last year and five hurricanes, two of them major. None of the hurricanes hit the U.S. Atlantic coast.