MIAMI -

Federal forecasters are predicting a near-normal outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its initial outlook for the six-month storm season Thursday at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami.

The group predicts nine to 15 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes. One to three could become major hurricanes.
Hurricane season officially begins June 1, but it started early this year when Tropical Storm Alberto formed May 19 off South Carolina's coast.

This hurricane season will mark the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew's catastrophic landfall in South Florida as a Category 5 storm.

The 2011 season was the sixth consecutive year without the U.S. landfall of a major hurricane. Major hurricanes are classified as Category 3 storms with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher.

Nevertheless, last season still produced 19 named tropical storms, the third-highest number on record.