Federal researchers Thursday pulled back slightly on their preseason forecast of a very active Atlantic hurricane season, but it's still expected to be the busiest since 2005.
The updated prediction reduces the highest number of possible storms from 23 to 20, possible hurricanes from 14 to 12 and major hurricanes from seven to six, said Chris Vaccaro of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The change was made because the early season didn't produce as many storms as the initial forecasts suggested.
Researchers across the board agree the Atlantic basin is in for what they call a hyperactive hurricane year. August through September is the heart of that season, the time when the number of storms peak and storms can roll one after another off the Cape Verde Islands near Africa, re-curving toward the United States and the Southeast coast.
There have been three named storms this year. Colin, which isn't expected to threaten the East Coast, was downgraded before regaining tropical storm strength Thursday. Its sustained winds have increased to 60 mph. A tropical storm warning was issued for Bermuda.
AccuWeather.com, a private forecasting company, is predicting eight "impact" storms -- storms that will be felt somewhere along the coast. The company calls for five to six "impact" hurricanes and two major "impact" hurricanes. Major hurricanes are storms with winds stronger than 111 mph -- powerful enough to snap trees, tear the roofs from frame-built houses and cut off water or electricity for days if not weeks.
"Consider (the NOAA revision) just a minor tweak," said Mark Malsick, S.C. Climate Office severe-weather liaison. "The takeaway is that all indicators point to a very active season that makes it more likely for the state to tangle with a storm or hurricane. Historically, the Atlantic doesn't start producing the larger storms until after the third week in August with the peak during the third week in September."
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