FLORIDA, USA – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 75 per cent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on Friday, will be near- or above-normal.

They also predict a 35 per cent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 per cent chance of a near-normal season, and a 25 per cent chance of a below-normal season for the upcoming hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to November 30.

NOAA’s forecasters says there is a 70 per cent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

The NOAA said the possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, are two of the factors driving this outlook.

“These factors are set upon a backdrop of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995,” it said.

The NOAA will update the 2018 Atlantic seasonal outlook in early August, just before the peak of the season.

Even before the official start of the season, however, one storm – Alberto – formed last Friday. It dumped heavy rains in Cuba . The flooding in central Cuba caused by torrential rainfall in the wake of Alberto, killed four people and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands.

After rain dumped more than four inches of water in 24 hours, flood waters swept away a bridge and damaged roads and other infrastructure, leaving many communities cut off and nearly 60,000 people without electricity.

Alberto subsequently weakened into a tropical depression after making landfall in the south of the United States.

At 10 a.m., it was moving across southwest Indiana, still threatening heavy rainfall. Flash flood warnings are in effect for portions of western Kentucky as well as from extreme northeast Georgia to western North Carolina, while flash flood watches are in effect for portions of the southern Appalachians and Lower Ohio Valley.