US forecasters say 2018 hurricane season may be above normal

HOUSTON, May 24 (Reuters) - U.S. forecasters expect the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near-normal to above-normal in number and intensity of storms, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center said.

The forecasters estimate between one and four major hurricanes packing winds of 111 miles per hour (178.6 kph) could develop during the 2018 season, which begins June 1. The NOAA forecast also said about half of the 10 to 16 named storms will be hurricane strength with winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph).

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, three of them major. Private forecaster Weatherbell Analytics earlier this month revised downward its forecast for named storms in 2018 from between 11 and 15 to 9 to 13.

A system was brewing in the southern Gulf on Thursday that has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It is expected to bring heavy rain to the southeast United States early next week and could become the first named storm of the year as Alberto.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba Editing by James Dalgleish)

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Severe spring weather across the U.S. in 2018
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Severe spring weather across the U.S. in 2018
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 15:�Rainbow occurs after rain over Manhattan in New York, United States on May 15, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 15: People walk over a pedestrian crossing on a rainy day in New York, United States on May 15, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Example ballots are caught by sudden winds as a storm system moves in quickly during Primary Election Day, in Philadelphia, PA, on May 15, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Severe weather builds up over Northwest Philadelphia, PA, on Primary Election Day, May 15, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 12: Rain clouds are seen over between Lower Manhattan and Jersey City in New York, United States on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WEEHAWKEN, NJ - MAY 23: A person walks in front of the skyline of lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center on a rainy day in New York City on May 12, 2018 as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: The front of a severe thunderstorm passes over the U.S. Capitol, on May 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. The area was hit with heavy rain and high winds from the early evening storm. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Simon Rusen-Morohovich, 19, of Pittsburgh, Pa. skim boards as storm clouds move in over Hollywood Beach, Fla. The National Hurricane Center says bad weather is coming from a stormy cluster over the Gulf and gives it a 40 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next five days. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: People play sports on the National Mall as the front of a severe thunderstorm approaches, on May 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. The area was hit with heavy rain and high winds from the early evening storm. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: People stand under a tree as rain starts to fall as a severe thunderstorm passes over the U.S. Capitol, on May 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. The area was hit with heavy rain and high winds from the early evening storm. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - MAY 14: A man covers himself with his coat as he walks down west Colfax Avenue during a heavy rain and hail storm on May 14, 2018 in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - MAY 14: A man covers himself with his coat as he walks down west Colfax Avenue during a heavy rain and hail storm on May 14, 2018 in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: Members of the Philadelphia Phillies ground crew roll out the tarp to cover the field due to an incoming storm before the start of a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on May 12, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
HOBOKEN, NJ - MAY 10: Lightning strikes New York City next to Hudson Yards on May 10, 2018 as seen from Hoboken, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 12: Rain clouds are seen over Lower Manhattan in New York, United States on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 16: People walk over a pedestrian crossing with their umbrellas on a rainy day in New York, United States on April 16, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MADISON, CONNECTICUT -APRIL 6: Snow settles on a daffodil as an April springtime snowfall covered the East Coast of the United States on April 6, 2018 in Madison, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 2: Snow covered buildings are seen in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on April 2, 2018. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 21: A woman stands with her umbrella during a late season snowstorm in Time Square, Manhattan in New York. The fourth nor'easter in three weeks hit the city on March 21, 2018 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2018: People carrying ski gears walk past the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 21, 2018. A late-season nor'easter, the fourth of its kind in three weeks, is targeting the northeast United States on Wednesday, bringing heavy snow and strong winds to the region. Washington, which is already snow-covered, is expected to see up to 6 inches of snow, as some models suggesting much high totals for the capital. Federal offices are closed for the snowstorm as the White House announced early Wednesday that all public events for the day were cancelled. (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, March 22, 2018 : Photo taken on March 21, 2018 shows the Statue of Liberty seen in the snow storm in New York, the United States. Thousands of flights were canceled and public schools were closed as the fourth snow storm in three weeks began hitting New York City and its neighboring areas on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Li Muzi via Getty Images)
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