Goodbye, snow. Hello, hurricanes?

Motorists navigate Route 1 in Chadds Ford in the midst of 2008's Hurricane Hanna. The 2010 hurricane season could be an "extreme season," forecasters say. (DAVID SWANSON/Inquirer)

The snows have barely melted, but Accu-Weather is out with its annual hurricane forecast, and it says it is going to be an eventful season - and perhaps then some.

"This year has a chance to be an extreme season," said Joe Bastardi, the company's long-range forecaster.

He is calling for up to 18 named storms to form, those with winds of at least 39 m.p.h., compared with 11 in a normal season. He also expect two or three hurricanes to make U.S. landfall.

Hurricanes will be a particular concern in Haiti, which is still recovering from the devastating earthquake.

Bastardi said he expects the El Niño, the unusual warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific, to dissipate. El Niño has a dampening effect on hurricanes by generating strong wind-shearing winds that keep storms in the Atlantic Basin from growing.

The experts agree the El Niño, which eventually became a strong one, was the prime agent for making the 2009 season so uneventful.

Typically, the Colorado State University forecasters, William Gray and Philip Klotzbach, update their outlooks in April. In December, they called for an above-average season, although they said it was too early to discern the course of El Niño.

The government usually issues its outlook in May.