WASHINGTON (Reuters)—The Atlantic storm season could produce as many as 14 hurricanes this year, the U.S. government's top climate agency predicted Thursday, setting the scene for potentially the most intense season since 2005.
In its first forecast for the storm season that begins next Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 14 to 23 named storms, with eight to 14 developing into hurricanes, making it one of the most active seasons ever.
Three to seven of those could be major Category 3 or above hurricanes, with winds of more than 110 mph, the agency said, echoing earlier predictions from meteorologists for a particularly severe season that could disrupt U.S. oil, gas and refinery operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to the risk that major hurricanes can pose to about one-quarter of U.S. oil production and more than one-tenth of natural gas output offshore in the Gulf, this year's storms threaten to complicate efforts to combat the environmental disaster of BP P.L.C.'s gushing oil well.
Copyright 2010 Reuters Limited.