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Hurricane forecast updated

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season should be slightly less active than originally predicted, federal forecasters said Tuesday.

Forecasters now expect there to be 12 to 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center and other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agencies said.

Three or four could be major hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 111 mph, forecasters said.

Government scientists made their first prediction in May, saying the season could produce 13 to 16 named storms, and eight to 10 hurricanes, four to six of which could become major.

There have been only three tropical storms and no hurricanes so far, but August through October are typically the most active months of the season.

Forecasters warned coastal residents not to let their guard down.

“Preventing the loss of life and minimizing property damage from hurricanes are responsibilities shared by all,” said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center. “Remember, one hurricane hitting your neighborhood is enough to make it a bad season.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency director R. David Paulison, who joined NOAA officials speaking from Washington, D.C., said his agency is working closely with state governments and would not wait for a state’s relief efforts to fail before stepping in with federal support after a hurricane.

Officials revised their forecast because of wetter than predicted conditions over the Pacific Ocean, which forced slightly stronger upper-level winds over the Caribbean, hurricane center meteorologist Christopher Landsea said.

Those winds can rip apart storms and stop them from becoming hurricanes.

Water temperatures in the Atlantic also are not as high as first expected, forecasters said.