(Reuters) - U.S. weather forecasters on Thursday predicted more tropical storms than normal for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which last year brought one of the deadliest recorded storm systems, killing several hundred people and causing $10 billion in damage.
Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said there was a 70 percent chance of seeing between 11 and 17 named tropical storms this season, which begins on June 1 and runs for six months.
"There is a potential for a lot of storm activity this year," Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator, said at a press conference in College Park, Maryland.
Five to nine of the storms could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, including two to four major hurricanes, with winds of at least 111 miles per hour, Friedman said.
The Atlantic hurricane region includes the whole North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, said Gerry Bell, a NOAA hurricane climate specialist. U.S. residents along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast could be affected by the hurricane season, as well as Mexico and the nations surrounding the Caribbean Sea.
The figures for 2017 are higher than last year's prediction of 10 to 16 storms, with four to eight likely to become hurricanes.
Forecasters will deploy more sophisticated tools this season to accurately track and predict the intensity of storms. But Friedman warned residents, especially in coastal areas, to get ready ahead of time.
"We cannot stop hurricanes, but we can prepare for them," Friedman said.
Last October, Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds of people when it hit Haiti and 34 more in the United States, and caused billions of dollars in damage, making it one of the deadliest and most costly on record.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Diane Craft)