By Doug Ohlemeier, The Packer

In its expanded 2008 Atlantic hurricane season forecast, AccuWeather Inc., State College, Pa., predicts a near-average number of named storms but warns a greater risk for residents of the Eastern Seaboard.

AccuWeather forecasts 12 named storms. Up to 40% of the named storms should cause tropical storm or hurricane conditions.

Citing a weakening La Nina and near-normal or below-normal water temperature in the Caribbean and south Atlantic tropical storm breeding grounds, AccuWeather said the season should see a lower number of storms.

Because of warm water near the north Atlantic coastline, the storms may form closer to the coast and produce a higher-than-usual threat for the East Coast, from the Carolinas northward, Accu-Weather warned.

AccuWeather predicts two or three storms with tropical force winds from Florida to New Eng-land, with one or two having hurricane-force winds and one being a strong hurricane.

The Gulf of Mexico, AccuWeather predicts, should see a normal distribution of tropical cyclone activity.

AccuWeather compares 1985, 1989, 1996 and 1999 to this season. Major storms struck from the Carolinas in all of those years, according to AccuWeather.