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By Reuters

The Atlantic hurricane season will be below average this year due to cooler seas and a strong El Niño effect, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday in its official forecast.

During a news conference in New Orleans, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said the forecast calls for six to 11 tropical storms this year, with three to six reaching hurricane status. There may be two major hurricanes with winds reaching at least 111 miles (178 kilometers) per hour.

“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook," Sullivan said in a NOAA statement. "As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities."

Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, although this season's first storm, Tropical Storm Ana, came ashore in South Carolina earlier this month. In an average year, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico have 12 named tropical storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, according to forecasters at Colorado State University.

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This report was supplemented by information from NBC News.