Forecasters: Expect active hurricane season

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Forecasters are expecting three to six major hurricanes from an above average Atlantic storm season.

The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration released its forecast for the 2011 season Thursday.

Scientists say as many as 18 named tropical storms may develop. Six to 10 of those could strengthen into hurricanes with top winds of at least 74 mph. Three to six could become major hurricanes, with maximum winds of 111 mph and up.

SkyWACH Weather Anchor Justin Kier says there is a 65 percent chance it'll be an above normal year. It may even be 'hyper-active' if the high ends of the numbers pan out.

Reasons why it'll be active:

- Above normal Sea Surface Temps- Active AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) pattern that has been happening since 95- El Nino is not expected (El Nino suppresses hurricanes)- Better long term model data

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Last year's hurricane season was one of the busiest on record with 19 named storms, including 12 hurricanes. No major hurricane has made a U.S. landfall in the last five years, but scientists say coastal residents can't expect their luck to hold.

"The key thing to remember is that it only takes one hurricane hit to change your world," Kier cautions. "The best thing anyone can do is prepare and have a plan in place."

While South Carolina hasn't seen a direct hit in a while, Hurricane Hugo taught the state valuable lessons.

Also remember that a Gulf hurricane can cause a tornado outbreak if it pushes towards the state. So it doesn't always take a direct hit to make a big impact.

Click here to find out more about hurricanes in South Carolina and how you can prepare.

Here's a list of 2011 hurricane names:


(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)