NOAA expects milder hurricane season

El Nino should knock some of the wind out of the sails of the 2009 hurricane season, federal forecasters predicted Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reduced its prediction for named storms by nearly a quarter but cautioned that the so-far snoozing tropics would still likely waken and churn up a near-normal number of storms.

"By no means, do we expect the season to be dead,"' said Gerry Bell, who is the lead seasonal forecaster for NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

The new "likely'' range (meaning a 70 percent chance) is seven to 11 named storms, with three to six becoming hurricanes. Of those, one to two are expected to turn into major storms with Category 3 winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.

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