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NOAA forecasters: Hurricane season expected to be ''near-normal''

12:45 PM, May 24, 2012   |    comments
Waves from the Gulf of Mexico pass road signs in Cedar Key, Fla., as the outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Dennis batter the island community July 10, 2005.
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MIAMI (AP) - Federal forecasters are predicting a near-normal outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its initial outlook for the six-month storm season Thursday at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1, but it started early this year when Tropical Storm Alberto formed May 19 off South Carolina's coast.

The group predicts nine to 15 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes. One to three could become major hurricanes.

This hurricane season marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's catastrophic landfall in South Florida as a Category 5 storm.

Last year marked the sixth consecutive year without the U.S. landfall of a major hurricane, which are classified as Category 3 storms with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher.

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