Heavy Hurricane Season Expected

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The East and Gulf coasts can expect another hurricane season that's worse than average, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (search) said Monday.

The Atlantic will have 12 to 15 tropical storms, seven to nine of them becoming hurricanes, and three to five of those hurricanes being major, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph, Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. said.

It's too early to predict where they might hit, he said at a conference launching hurricane awareness week.

"Forecaster confidence that this will be an active hurricane season is very high," Lautenbacher said.

Forecasters at Colorado State University also predict a "significantly above average" Atlantic hurricane season. In April, William Gray and his team said they expect 13 named storms including seven hurricanes, three of them major.

The hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Lautenbacher said the eastern and central Pacific are expected to have a lighter-than-normal season. The eastern Pacific can expect 11 to 15 tropical storms, six to eight of them becoming hurricanes, and two to four of them major, Lautenbacher said.

Two or three tropical cyclones are projected for the central Pacific, he said.

Since 1995, all but two Atlantic hurricane seasons have been above normal.