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Forecasters now expect less active hurricane season

Earlier this summer, forecasters predicted an active hurricane season, calling for 10 to 16 named storms with five to nine hurricanes.

Now they’re dialing it back a bit.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s updated outlook now predicts nine to 13 named storms, including four to seven hurricanes. Up to two hurricanes could be “major” with sustained winds of at least 111 mph (178 kph), NOAA says.

Four storms already have developed this year, including Hurricane Chris, which formed off the North Carolina coast in July, creating rough surf that claimed the life of a Kill Devil Hills man.

Gerry Bell of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said oceanic and atmospheric conditions have become “much more inhospitable to hurricane formation and intensification.”

Bell said the El Nino phenomenon also may develop as the six-month season peaks. That natural warming in the Pacific Ocean tends to reduce Atlantic hurricane activity. Warm waters feed a hurricane’s strength, while strong wind shear can pull it apart. If El Nino does not develop and water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea warm up, that could fuel more storm development.

Bell warned coastal residents the forecast doesn’t predict where any storms could make landfall, which is determined by short-term weather patterns.

NOAA also predicted 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.

Officials warned all coastal residents not to wait to make evacuation plans or preparations for protecting their homes and businesses.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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