If you live along the Eastern seaboard, you may want to sit down for this -- and perhaps keep your home insurance policy handy as well.
The Colorado State University tropical storm forecast team predicts an above-average hurricane season this year in the Atlantic basin, with 18 named storms likely. Nine of those are expected to become hurricanes, four of them major ones (Category 3, 4 or 5), and there's a 72 percent chance that one will make landfall somewhere along the East Coast.
Recent warming in the Atlantic and the expected lack of an El Nino weather pattern, which tends to ward off severe storms in the east, were the main factors that contributed to this year's forecast.
Hurricane season in the U.S. runs between June 1 and Nov. 30. The forecast probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. this season are:
- Entire coastline: 72 percent, well above the 52 percent average for the past century.
- U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula: 48 percent (vs. 31 percent for the past century).
- Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas: 47 percent (vs. 30 percent for past century).
- Caribbean: 61 percent (vs. 42 percent for past century).
The team's findings are consistent with those of Houston, Texas-based ImpactWeather, which predicted that this year's storms will be more severe than 2012.
The CSU forecasters say this year's oceanic and atmospheric conditions most resemble those in the spring of 1915, 1952, 1966, 1996 and 2004, and four out of five of those years experienced above-average hurricane activity.
It's also expected to be a rough summer at sea. The forecast team predicts cyclone activity will be 175 percent of average. Last year, actual cyclone activity was 131 percent of average.
While predictions serve as fair warning, there is no substitute for preparedness. As millions of Americans discovered from the back-to-back sucker punches of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, you don't have to live in a flood plain or even near the ocean to have your home threatened by a hurricane. If you haven't read your home insurance policy, now might be a good time to do so.
With an active storm season forecast, don't take chances. Visit the National Hurricane Center's hurricane preparedness site at Nhc.Noaa.gov/prepare to find out how best to protect your home and family should a hurricane come calling.
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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.