LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast released Thursday predictions 10 to 16 named storms and five to nine hurricanes that could turn into one to four “major” hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
If that forecast holds, it would make for a near-normal or above-normal season.
“Normal or above normal season is a lot of storms. Ten to 16 is a lot of storms. Up to nine hurricanes, up to four major hurricanes, that’s a lot of activity,” NOAA’s Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster Gerry Bell told WFLA.
NOAA predicted that 2017 would be an above-average season, and it certainly was.
A trio of devastating hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria, ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands.
Overall, last year saw 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1.
“There’s going to be a fair amount of activity this year,” Bell said.
Experts warn that people should prepare now, saying it only takes one.
“We’re vulnerable to a big hurricane landfall in any location, east coast or the Gulf coast of Florida. It doesn’t matter if there are fewer hurricanes if one of them have your name on it,” NOAA Flight Meteorologist Jack Parrish told WFLA.
NOAA’s prediction comes as the Tampa Bay area is keeping a close eye on an area of low pressure entering the Gulf of Mexico.
Once that low gets in the warm water of the Gulf, there is a better opportunity for it to strengthen into something tropical.
“Upper level winds will also be lighter, and that will allow the system to strengthen as well,” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Leigh Spann.
The National Hurricane Center gives this disturbance an 90 percent chance of developing tropical or subtropical characteristics in the next five days. Learn more about the disturbance here.