Tropical Weather (copy)

Hurricane Florence covers most of the East Coast on Sept. 14, 2018, in this satellite image. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s updated forecast for 2019 hurricane season is now five to nine storms.

Charlotte — The likelihood of an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season has increased, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said late last week.

Forecasters predicted a 30% probability of an “above normal” season in May, and that likelihood has increased to a 45% probability, NOAA said Thursday.

In May, forecasters said they expected four to eight hurricanes during the season. But now five to nine hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes are expected, NOAA said.

Hurricanes have 74 mph or higher winds, and major hurricanes have 111 mph winds or higher, NOAA said.

The new predictions come with the end of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, which “typically suppresses” hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, according to NOAA.

“This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, according to NOAA.

Hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, with peak season starting in August and ending in October, according to NOAA.

There are usually about six hurricanes and three major hurricanes in an average hurricane season in the Atlantic, according to NOAA, and last year there were eight hurricanes during the season, including major hurricanes Michael and Florence, which hit the Carolinas hard, causing extensive damage and widespread flooding.

Although the probability of an above-normal season has increased, there is still a 35% change of a “near normal” season, according to forecasters.

But even if the season is near normal, the Carolinas still need to be ready, Steve Pfaff with the National Weather Service in Wilmington told The Charlotte Observer when NOAA’s May predictions came out.

“Just because it’s a near-normal year doesn’t mean we don’t need to prepare,” Pfaff said at the time. “We need to get ready. There’s just too much at risk.”

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