Here's to hoping you don't get a visit this year from Wendy. That's the moniker reserved for the 21st named tropical storm or hurricane of the 2007 season, which experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say has a 75 percent chance of being above normal in terms of activity. In total, scientists at the Camp Springs, Md.-based NOAA Climate Prediction Center are projecting 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes. Of those, three to five could become major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher, with winds of at least 111 mph. (At its peak, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 5 storm raging at 175 mph.)

“With expectations for an active season, it is critically important that people who live in East and Gulf coastal areas as well as the Caribbean be prepared,” said NOAA national hurricane director Bill Proenza in the May 22 hurricane season forecast. “Now is the time to update your hurricane plan, not when the storm is bearing down on you.”

Climate patterns responsible for the expected above normal hurricane season include warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the El Niño/La Niña cycle. “If La Niña develops, storm activity will likely be in the upper end of the predicted range, or perhaps even higher,” said NOAA hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell in the forecast. NOAA climatologists also predicted higher than normal storm activity last year, a projection that was significantly mitigated when cooler surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean were brought on by an unexpected and rapid El Niño development.

NOAA annually updates its seasonal forecast in August just prior to the historical peak of the season. Extensive information on hurricane preparedness, including how to secure buildings and property threatened by an approaching storm, can be found online at