updated 8/8/2003 6:00:23 AM ET 2003-08-08T10:00:23

The current hurricane season is likely to be busier than originally thought, with more of a danger to the United States and Caribbean, government forecasters say. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now expects seven to nine hurricanes, including three to four major storms packing winds of at least 111 mph.

InsertArt(1978412)AN ABOVE-average two hurricanes and two tropical storms have formed so far as the season approaches its peak, from mid-August through October. The full season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

“Many of the hurricanes this season will develop over the tropical Atlantic and move westward as they strengthen. These hurricanes could pose a threat to the United States and/or the Caribbean Islands,” Dr. Gerry Bell, head of the administration’s seasonal prediction team, said Thursday.

The administration updated its forecast from May, which expected six to nine hurricanes, of which two to four would become major. The updated forecast predicts 12 to 15 tropical storms, above previous expectations of 11 to 15 tropical storms. The historical average is 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes.

“Nobody can tell you exactly where they’ll hit or when, but what we can say is similar seasons, based on historical data, averaged two to three land-falling hurricanes in the United States and one to two hurricanes in the region around the Caribbean Sea,” said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Mayfield said hurricanes are more likely because of several factors: relatively warm sea surface temperatures, a strong African jet stream and other conditions that have existed over the past eight years. The 1995-2002 period has been the busiest for hurricanes in more than half a century.

Hurricane forecaster William Gray updated his prediction Wednesday, saying the remaining summer months should be quieter than normal, but October will have above-normal hurricane activity.

All forecasters cautioned coastal residents from becoming complacent.

“If you’re lucky enough to live on the beautiful Gulf or Atlantic coast of the United States or down in the Caribbean, you need to be prepared no matter what,” Mayfield said.

Additional background is online at .

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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