Up to 16 named storms projected for upcoming 'near normal' hurricane season, NOAA announces _lowres

MIAMI (AP) — U.S. forecasters say an Atlantic hurricane season that started off strong shows no signs of slowing down.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's updated hurricane season forecast predicts 14 to 19 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Two to five hurricanes are expected to be "major" with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

In May, officials released a forecast predicting 11 to 17 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Meteorologists initially predicted two to four of those to become "major" storms of Category 3 or higher.

Gerry Bell of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said wind patterns and warmer than average water temperatures that can fuel storm development are expected to persist throughout the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Six tropical storms have formed so far this year, including two that hit the U.S. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Franklin was nearing hurricane strength Wednesday as it approached Mexico's central Gulf coast.

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