The federal government predicted a near-normal hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin, expecting four to eight hurricanes.
A normal season can still be disastrous, since "it only takes one," warned Neil Jacobs, acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which released the forecast.
Overall, NOAA said nine to 15 named storms will develop. This number includes tropical storms. A tropical storm contains wind speeds of 39 mph or higher and becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph.
Of the four to eight hurricanes, two to four could be major, packing wind speeds of 111 mph or higher.
Forecasts include storms that spin up in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
The season officially begins next
Saturday, June 1, and runs through Nov. 30. An average season typically spawns six hurricanes and peaks in August and September.
The "near-normal" season is predicted despite the presence of a weak El Niño, a natural climate pattern that tends to suppress hurricane activity, according to NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, Gerry Bell.
Countering El Niño, Bell said, is the combination of unusually warm seawater in the Atlantic and a stronger-than-average West African monsoon, both of which favor increased hurricane activity.
"Now is the time to get prepared," Bell said.
Andrea, a subtropical storm, formed in the Atlantic, then spun harmlessly out at sea this week. The next named storm will be Barry, followed by Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand and Gabrielle.
NOAA's hurricane forecasts have been more accurate than not this decade. Since 2010, the agency's record for hurricane prediction is 6-3, according to a USA TODAY analysis of NOAA's forecasts. This is a marked improvement from the 2000s, when the agency was 2-5. (NOAA's forecasts began in 2003.)
"Starting in 2008, the outlooks benefited from the high-resolution Climate Forecast System dynamical model," NOAA spokesperson Lauren Gaches said. "Along with new and improved statistical prediction tools, ongoing research and new analysis techniques, this model has enhanced the accuracy of our hurricane outlooks."
Last month, meteorologists at Colorado State University estimated 13 tropical storms will form, 5 of which will become hurricanes. In the 1980s, Colorado State University meteorologist William Gray was the first scientist to make seasonal hurricane forecasts.
Last year, NOAA predicted 10 to 16 named tropical storms would spin up, of which five to nine would be hurricanes. In all, 15 named storms formed, including eight hurricanes.
The hurricanes included such monsters as Florence and Michael, which killed more than 100 people and caused $50 billion in damages.
Forecasters also released their prediction for the eastern Pacific basin, where 15 to 22 named storms are expected. An average eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 named storms.
Eastern Pacific storms and hurricanes primarily stay out to sea and seldom affect the U.S. mainland, although some storms hit the west coast of Mexico. Remnant moisture from the storms can dump heavy rain on the U.S. Southwest, leading to flooding.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Forecasters predict up to 8 hurricanes in 'near-normal' 2019 Atlantic hurricane season