WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season will be fairly average with as many as seven hurricanes expected to form, U.S. government forecasters predicted on Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast nine to 14 named storms this season, with four to seven developing into hurricanes. One to three could be major ones of Category 3 or higher with winds above 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour), the agency said in its annual forecast.

Last year was one of the most active seasons on record, with 16 tropical storms and eight hurricanes. Want the whole story?