The U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast should brace for a potentially "extremely active" hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2010 Atlantic forecast, released Thursday.
NOAA warned of added risk from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, saying a hurricane storm surge could bring "discernable deposits" of oil even farther ashore along the Gulf Coast.
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., agency officials predicted that the 2010 hurricane season could be one of the busiest on record, with as many as 23 named tropical storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean between June 1 and November 30, National Geographic reports.
Three to seven of those could be major Category 3 or above hurricanes, with winds of more than 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour), the agency said, echoing earlier predictions from meteorologists for a particularly severe season that could disrupt U.S. oil, gas and refinery operations.
"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA's administrator. "The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall."
In addition to the risk that major hurricanes can pose to about one-quarter of U.S. oil production and more than a 10th of natural gas output offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, this year's storms could threaten to complicate efforts to combat the environmental disaster of BP's gushing oil well, Reuters says.