After two consecutive seasons of devastating hurricanes, a leading forecaster is predicting a less active year as compared to 2018, but that doesn't mean it will be quiet.
AccuWeather, which issued its seasonal forecast this morning, believes the 2019 hurricane season will be near normal to slightly above normal with 12 to 14 named storms.
Of those storms, five to seven are forecast to become hurricanes and two to four are forecast to become major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
A normal season typically has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30.
While early hurricane forecasts are a challenge because the atmosphere has yet to make a seasonal shift, they are based heavily on whether an El Niño is expected to be present. For Florida, the periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean can mean a less active hurricane season with fewer of the powerhouse Category 5 tropical cyclones known to build during the peak months of August through October.
AccuWeather is forecasting that the current El Niño phase and intensity should continue right through the summer, including the most active time of the season: August, September and October.
The federal Climate Prediction Center, which will issue its hurricane forecast in May, is also giving El Niño a 60 percent chance of persisting through the summer and a 50 percent chance of making it into fall.
The 2018 hurricane season is most known for hurricanes Florence and Michael, both of which caused enough damage and death to have their names retired from the rotating six-year list of storm names.
Hurricane Florence, which hit the southeastern coast of North Carolina on Sept. 14, caused at least 51 deaths and severe flooding across the Carolinas and Virginia.
Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 near Mexico Beach in Florida's Panhandle as a strong Category 4 storm with 155-mph winds. It was the third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous U.S. based on central pressure. At least 45 deaths are blamed on the storm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In all, 2018 had 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
This story was originally posted on PalmBeachPost.com, and was shared to GateHouse Media's Florida properties.