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Macon.com MIDDAY UPDATE: Government forecasters expect up to 9 hurricanes in '08; State Patrol gives prediction for holiday traffic deaths; Fla. beach named best in U.S. by 'Dr. Beach'

Government forecasters expect the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season to be near normal or above normal.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials in Tampa say that means there is a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms, six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes forming.

But they stress coastal residents should always be prepared. They don’t predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land.

An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes for which two reach major status.

Forecasters and emergency responders fear that coastal residents will be apathetic this year after the United States escaped the past two storm seasons virtually unscathed.

– Associated Press

State Patrol gives prediction for holiday traffic deaths

The Georgia State Patrol predicts that there will be more than 2,300 traffic accidents resulting in 19 deaths during the 78-hour Memorial Day holiday weekend beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. Last year during the same holiday weekend there were 2,062 accidents and 10 deaths. Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said Thursday high gasoliine prices could result in heavy traffic across the state with more people taking shorter trips, staying closer to home.

Associated Press

Florida beach named best in U.S. by 'Dr. Beach'

Caladesi Island, Fla., earned the honor of being named best beach in 2008 for an annual list compiled by Florida International University professor Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach.

The runners-up on Leatherman’s list, released today, were Hanalei Beach, Hawaii; Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla.; Coopers Beach in Southampton, N.Y.; Coronado Beach in San Diego; Main Beach in East Hampton, N.Y.; Hamoa Beach, Hawaii; Cape Hatteras, N.C.; Cape Florida State Park near Miami; and Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, S.C.

Caladesi’s somewhat remote location factored into Leatherman’s rankings.

‘‘It’s an island getaway,’’ said Leatherman, who studies changing coastlines and has released his annual list since 1991. He noted that despite being in the densely populated Tampa Bay area, many nearby residents have never visited Caladesi.

Most beachgoers reach the island by a 15-minute, $9 ferry ride. Visitors — unless they bring their own boat — are limited to four-hour stays at the beach, which is a state park.

– Associated Press

WHAT'S COMING UP ON MACON.COM

— It's the last day of school for displaced Westside High School students in Bibb County. We'll tell you about seniors' last day on the Rutland High campus.

— Robins Air Force Base iheld its annual Camellia Gardens Memorial Service this morning. We'll tell you about the service, which is in its 32nd year.

VISIT US AGAIN SOON

We invite you to check out our Web site again tomorrow for the Midday Update. Monday through Friday, Online Editor Beth MacFadyen will bring you timely information about what Telegraph staffers are working on, plus news we think you need to know immediately. Send feedback to bmacfadyen@macon.com

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