The 2012 hurricane season officially begins on Friday, even though two named storms have already hit this season.

Hurricane Beryl was the second named tropical system of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season. Beryl came ashore near Jacksonville, Fla., just after midnight on Memorial Day as a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. It dumped 10 inches of rain in some areas of north Florida.

U.S. forecasters have predicted that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season would produce a normal number of about nine to 15 tropical storms.

As many as four to eight of those storms could strengthen into hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s initial outlook for the six-month storm season. One to three of those could become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher.

The weather phenomenon known as El Nino, which warms Pacific waters near the equator and increases wind shear over the Atlantic, may develop by the late summer or early fall and help suppress storm development, forecasters said.

Forecasters name tropical storms when their top winds reach 39 mph; hurricanes have winds of at least 74 mph.

AND STILL ON HURRICANES, FORMER DISASTER PREPAREDNESS OFFICIAL, CECIL SHILLINGFORD, WRITES:

The names for 2012 are Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie and William.

Although this season isn’t expected to be as busy as last year’s above-average season island residents especially those on the coast should start stocking up on hurricane supplies, forming evacuation plans and generally preparing adequately.

“There is still going to be a lot of activity. So just because we’re predicting a near normal season doesn’t mean anybody’s off the hook at all,” says one of the lead seasonal forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Dominicans are therefore being urged to continue all preparedness activities, ensure they are in a safe shelter whenever a storm is announced, move away from coastal and other vulnerable areas and have on hand emergency supplies as advised by Disaster Management Officials.