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'Very Active' Hurricane Season Predicted

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) _ The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season should be ``very active,'' with 17 named storms, a top storms forecaster said Tuesday.

Those named storms are expected to include five intense or major hurricanes, according to forecaster William Gray's team at Colorado State University. Gray said there is a 74 percent probability of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coast.

The team's forecasts are based on global oceanic and atmospheric conditions.

Last year, Gray's forecast _ as well as government forecasts _ was higher than what the Atlantic hurricane season produced. Gray's team said the reason was a late El Nino that altered oceanic conditions.

There were nine named Atlantic storms and five hurricanes, two of them major, in 2006. That was considered a ``near normal'' season. None of those hurricanes hit the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The devastating 2005 season had 28 named storms, 15 of them hurricanes. Four of those hurricanes hit the U.S. coast, the worst among them Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and leveled parts of the Gulf Coast.

Gray has spent more than 40 years in tropical weather research. He heads the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State.
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