Breaking it down, NOAA said forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.
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Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
The forecast is an annual reminder from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that coastal living comes with significant risks.
And it's not just at the coast. North Carolina saw devastating inland flooding last year from Hurricane Matthew.
The Atlantic Ocean basin typically averages 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three "major" ones with winds topping 110 mph.
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The population in the 185 coastline counties most threatened by hurricanes in the U.S. is just under 60 million people, according to U.S. Census estimates.
Overall, 143.6 million people - 44.7 percent of the U.S. population - from Maine to Texas could be living in harm's way.
Storm winds can reach frightening speeds, but they aren't the deadliest threat. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, storm surge and rainfall flooding combine for three-quarters of all U.S. deaths from hurricanes, tropical storms or tropical depressions.
Rising sea levels are expected to increase the vulnerability of coastal communities to flooding from tropical systems.
Though some aspects of hurricane development still aren't fully understood, recent research indicates climate change is likely to make hurricanes more intense in the future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report