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It’s the first day of June, and Gulf Coast residents from Texas to Florida know what that means: hurricanes. The official North Atlantic hurricane season kicks off today and runs through November 30.

Officials at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are predicting this year’s season will be “near-normal,” with a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms. Named storms are those with sustained winds of 39 miles per hour or higher. Of that total, 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (storms with winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5 storms with winds of 111 mph or higher).

Two tropical storms have already reached the 39 mph threshold this year, including Alex, a rare January storm, and Bonnie, which made landfall in South Carolina over the weekend.

“A near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

Officials are urging residents to be prepared.

“While seasonal forecasts may vary from year to year — some high, some low — it only takes one storm to significantly disrupt your life,” said FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich. “Preparing for the worst can keep you, your family, and first responders out of harm’s way. Take steps today to be prepared: develop a family communications plan, build an emergency supply kit for your home, and make sure you and your family know your evacuation route. These small steps can help save your life when disaster strikes.”

For more information on how to prepare your family and home for hurricane season, check out the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane preparedness site.

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