This hurricane season isn't likely to be much worse than usual — but it could be, federal forecasters said Thursday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for a 70 percent chance of 10 to 16 named storms, or storms with winds that reach at least 39 mph.
Five to nine of those storms could be hurricanes with winds at least 74 mph, NOAA said, and from one to four could become potential catastrophic hurricanes with winds at least 111 mph.
NOAA also gave a 35 percent chance that more storms could form.
The prediction is similar to earlier, private company forecasts.
Similar numbers also were predicted by forecasters for the 2017 hurricane season. The actual season — with its devastating late period beginning around September of extraordinarily powerful storms — left some people in the Lowcountry, the state and the nation, shaken. Hundreds died from the Caribbean to the U.S. mainland. Hundreds of thousands more were left homeless.
Nine storms became hurricanes and six of those became major hurricanes. In South Carolina, brushes by Tropical Storm Irma and other storms caused millions of dollars in damage.
Four of the worst hurricanes formed one after the other from late August into September. Two — Irma and Maria — reached cataclysmic Category 5 with winds stronger than 156 mph.
The other two — Harvey and Jose — reached Hurricane Hugo strength with winds above 130 mph.
At one point, Irma became the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. The combined power of the four storms, along with weaker hurricanes Katia and Lee, made that period the worst on record. Repair costs already are in the billions.
On Thursday, federal emergency officials gave the standard "it only takes one" caution along with the release of their annual forecast.
"Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector and the public," acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski said.
"It only takes one storm to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare," he said. "Do you have adequate insurance, including flood insurance? Does your family have a communication and evacuation plan? Stay tuned to your local news and download the FEMA app to get alerts, and make sure you heed any warnings issued by local officials."
The designated hurricane season opens June 1 and runs through November. But the storms can form any month of the year.