LAKELAND (AP) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released it’s 2018 outlook for hurricane season, which begins June 1.
The announcement was made at NOAA’s new home, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on Thursday.
“We expect 10 to 16 named storms with top winds of at least 39 miles an hour. Of those, five to nine will become hurricanes with top winds of at least 74 miles an hour, including one to four major hurricanes reaching Category 3 strength or higher,” said NOAA Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction Dr. Neil Jacobs.
NOAA is calling this season, “near-or above normal."
"There are no strong climate signals saying it's going to be extremely active, like last year, or extremely weak," said Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
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.
“This includes making emergency and evacuation plans with family members and preparation measures for business in regions that could be impacted by a hurricane,” said Rear Admiral Michael Silah, from NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.
In the short term, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday a mass of low pressure in the western Caribbean was becoming better defined and likely would become a subtropical or tropical depression by late Saturday.
The system currently off the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula was expected to move northward. Heavy rains were likely across western Cuba, much of Florida and the northern Gulf Coast into early next week. In the United States, the downpours could dampen Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the tourist season.
Florida's governor has directed state authorities to prepare flood response resources to help residents in the event of torrential rains.
Florida holds a Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which begins Friday, June 1 through June 7.
The sales tax holiday allows Floridians to buy eligible items like batteries, gas containers, flashlights, and other disaster supplies tax-free.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.