Hurricane season starting to look more quiet than usual, NOAA reports _lowres

Associated Press file photo by Gerry Broome -- A man crosses a flooded U.S. 64 as wind pushes water over the road July 4 as Hurricane Arthur passed through Nags Head, N.C.

It’s starting to look like 2014 is going to be a below-normal hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center reported Thursday.

The reason for the higher confidence in a below-average season is that winds and ocean conditions that help inhibit the formation of tropical storms have developed and will stay throughout this season, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Those conditions include strong wind shear as well as a weaker West African monsoon, which means fewer tropical storms are being created off the African coast.

However, the possibility remains that a storm could form and hit Louisiana or the coastal United States.

NOAA released the mid-season hurricane outlook that calls for a 70 percent chance that there could be seven to 12 named storms this year, with three to six becoming hurricanes and no more than two becoming major hurricanes, meaning wind speeds of at least 111 mph.

This is at or below the 30-year average of 12 named storms, of which six could become hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Thursday’s update is also lower than NOAA’s May forecast.

Forecasters warn that a “quiet” season can still turn busy if just one storm impacts the United States, such as what happened in 1992 with Hurricane Andrew. Only two Atlantic storms have formed so far this year — Hurricane Arthur in early July, which made landfall in North Carolina, and Hurricane Bertha, which stayed largely out to sea in early August.