U.S. government weather experts on Monday predicted an average hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean this year, with five to seven hurricanes expected to threaten homes, businesses and agriculture in the Caribbean and southeast U.S. coasts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the 2001 North Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, would likely see eight to 11 tropical storms, of which five to seven will reach hurricane strength. Of those, two or three could be classified as major hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 110 miles per hour. Tropical storms become hurricanes when their top sustained winds reach 74 mph. "Although we expect an average level of activity this season, that is no cause to become complacent. With the possibility of five to seven hurricanes, residents in hurricane-prone areas can't afford to let their guard down," said a NOAA administrator. Last year, the Atlantic produced 15 tropical storms, of which eight reached hurricane strength and three - Alberto, Isaac and Keith - were categorized as intense hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 110 mph.