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NOAA predicts near-normal hurricane seasons

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 24, 2012 -- Updated 1719 GMT (0119 HKT)
A satellite picture from August 25, 2011, shows Hurricane Irene over the Caribbean.
A satellite picture from August 25, 2011, shows Hurricane Irene over the Caribbean.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Early storms this year don't portend a more active season, forecasters say
  • Up to 15 named Atlantic storms are expected, including one to three major hurricanes
  • A major hurricane packs winds well over 100 miles per hour
  • Uncertainty over formation of an El Nino weather pattern affects the prediction

(CNN) -- Despite some early storms this year, forecasters Thursday predicted a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season with nine to 15 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes.

Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center, told reporters that uncertainty about whether the El Nino weather pattern will form made it difficult to be more precise.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

For the Atlantic Ocean, a normal season would produce 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major ones.

A major hurricane, designated as Category 3 or greater, packs winds of well over 100 miles per hour.

Hurricane Bud now a Category 2

In addition, forecasters predicted a near-normal Eastern Pacific hurricane season, with 12 to 18 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes.

An average season in the Eastern Pacific produces 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

It is extremely rare for an Eastern Pacific hurricane to affect the U.S. mainland, though some do have an influence on Hawaii.

Thursday's announcement came as Hurricane Bud strengthened to a Category 2 storm as it churned toward the southwestern coast of Mexico in the Eastern Pacific.

In addition, Tropical Storm Alberto broke up in the Atlantic this week and another tropical depression was causing heavy rainfall in southern Florida, Bell said.

However, he said the early storms were no harbinger of a more active season than normal.

CNN's Sean Morris contributed to this report.

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