By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. forecasters expect an above-normal 13-19 named storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center said on Thursday.
NOAA forecasters estimate three to six major hurricanes packing winds of at least 111 miles per hour (179 km/h) may form. The last two years have seen an above-average number of named storms with 18 last year and 15 in 2018.
Gerry Bell, lead forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center, said the Atlantic is in a warm cycle of a multi-decadal pattern that has dominated the ocean's weather since 1995.
"We're predicting this to be an above-normal season, possibly very active," Bell said.
NOAA's seasonal outlook is consistent with recent academic and private forecasts. Above-average ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and an absence of high-level El Nino winds that break up storms portend a more active season, researchers have said
About half of this year's named storms may reach hurricane strength, with winds of at least 74 mph. The season formally begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
The 2020 season started early with Tropical Storm Arthur, bringing heavy rains to the southeastern U.S. coast this week before dissipating on Tuesday. No storms are currently brewing.
Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the COVID-19 pandemic would affect disaster plans.
"Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more," Castillo said.
Eighteen tropical storms developed in 2019 including six hurricanes, three of which were major. The average hurricane season produces 12 named storms and six hurricanes, three of which are major.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba, Editing by Tom Brown and Richard Pullin)