Hurricane season underway, expected to be active

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be active and begins today continuing through November 30.

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Coastal residents, you've been warned: Hurricane season has begun.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins Wednesday and continues through November 30.

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

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 this will be an above normal year. It may even be 'hyper-active' if the high ends of the numbers pan out.

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Reasons why it'll be active:

- Above normal Sea Surface Temps- Active AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) pattern that has been happening since 1995- El Nino is not expected (El Nino suppresses hurricanes)- Better long term model data

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."

Kier spoke with officials at the Emergency Management Division Wednesday. While, an active season looms on the horizon for South Carolina, SCEMD's sight is set on one thing.

"From an emergency response and personal preparation point of view, we're focused on that 'one' storm," says Public Information Officer Derrec Becker. It only takes one. The one that could be headed for South Carolina."

The SCEMD is utilizing a multi-platform campaign to educate the public. Everything from social media to the annual hurricane guide are being utilized.

"It's always important to remember South Carolina is vulnerable to every disaster except a volcano," says Becker. "We want people to be prepared for a 72 hour period because emergency responders may not be able to get to you immediately following a disaster."

The administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency also wants residents to make social media part of their disaster plans, now that FEMA posts on Twitter and the National Hurricane Center has a Facebook page . For local weather alerts, be sure to follow the SkyWACH weather team on Twitter: @SkyWACH .

The American Red Cross is saying there's no better time than now to get ready.

By taking three basic preparedness actions you can become Red Cross Ready for hurricanes and other emergencies, the steps are 1) Get a kit, 2) Make a plan and 3) Be informed, says Karen Anderson, regional disaster director for the Columbia region. Your local Red Cross is here to help you get prepared for specific disasters like hurricanes. Even if you took action to prepare last hurricane season, it TMs important that you revisit and update your communication plan and check your emergency preparedness kit for expired items.

Click here to find out more ways you can be prepared in the event of a hurricane.

Do you have an emergency plan in place to put into action should a hurricane hit South Carolina? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Also, vote in our poll and let us know how much you pay attention to these predictions.

Here's a list of 2011 hurricane names:

ArleneBretCindyDonEmilyFranklin Gert HarveyIreneJose KatiaLee MariaNateOphelia PhilippeRinaSeanTammyVinceWhitney

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)