Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily. Those are the names slated for this season’s first five Atlantic tropical storms.

June 1 marks the beginning of the hurricane season, but Tropical Storm Arlene jumped the gun by making a rare preseason appearance in April. The rest of the season, which extends through the end of November, is expected to be more active than normal, according to today’s forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher. That takes us up to Rina on the list of names. Of those storms, 5 to 9 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, including 2 to 4 major hurricanes of Category 3 or above with winds of 111 mph or higher.

NOAA is attributing the increased activity to a weak El Nino, which could mean more Atlantic hurricanes.

An average season produces 12 named tropical storms. "Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives," says Acting FEMA Administrator Robert J. Fenton Jr. "Get ready now.”

Fenton recommends having a family meeting to discuss what you’ll do, where you’ll go, and how you’ll communicate in the event of a storm. For NOAA’s full advice, see “What to Do Before the Tropical Storm or Hurricane.”

Generators to Keep the Power On

For folks who live in areas along the Eastern seaboard that are prone to tropical storms and hurricanes, owning a generator is a good way to prepare for the power outages that often accompany such events. Consumer Reports tests portable and stationary generators. Here are some picks from our tests.

Portable Generators
Portable generators typically cost less than stationary models and are easy to store in a shed or garage. They’re a good choice if you experience infrequent power outages. But keep in mind that you have to keep gas on hand, they’re noisy to run, and they must be kept at least 15 feet away from your house, doors, and windows because they pose a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are three to consider:

Stationary Generators
Stationary generators are preferred by homeowners who experience frequent outages. When the power goes out, they switch on by themselves whether you’re home or not. And they can power more than a portable model can, sometimes even your central air conditioner. But you have to plan ahead because they should be installed by a pro and some towns require permits. Here are three large models to consider:

Check our full generator ratings and recommendations for more choices at more prices.