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Friday, August 26, 2011 - 5:07am

'Irene' Effects Felt On Ga. Coast

Hurricane Irene is churning up rough seas and dangerous riptides on Georgia's beaches as the storm passes the coast 240 miles offshore.

Lifeguards on Tybee Island closed its waters to swimmers Friday after officials decided conditions were too dangerous. Surfers and others with flotation devices were still being allowed in the water at their own risk.

On St. Simons Island, police are doing beach patrols and urging people to stay out of the surf.

National Weather Service meteorologist Al Sandrik says Irene should bring up to 2 inches of rain and occasional gusts of more than 50 mph to coastal Georgia despite passing far offshore. There's also a chance of coastal flooding at high tide, when the water is forecast to be 1 to 2 feet higher than normal.

Officially, forecasters have in-place a high surf advisory and coastal flood warning for several areas of the coast, including Brunswick, St. Simons, and Jekyll Island. Savannah is forecast for a 30 percent chance of rain.

Ron Morales with the NWS office in Charleston says on land, Georgians could see storms bringing less than an inch of rain.

"It wouldn't be out of the question, depending on exactly where Irene goes and how large the wind field is with this thing as it comes up, that a stray shower that gets in over [the Savannah area] could produce some wind gusts up close to 40 or so miles an hour."

Morales says higher rain amounts could be expected depending on the exact position of the storm's outer feeder bands.

"Some of those bands, if they extend far enough out to the west as Irene passes well to the east, and if they come in enough at a time, then certainly you could get some localized heavier amounts."

The U.S. Coast Guard is urging boaters to use extreme caution.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Air National Guard isn't taking any chances with its C-130 cargo planes. Officials with the Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing say the unit had moved all eight of its C-130s to Dobbins Air Force Base north of Atlanta. An official says the National Guard is just being extra cautious with the giant airplanes, which cost the military about $30 million apiece. If needed, the planes could be mobilized as part of the disaster response to Irene.


Orlando Montoya