Hurricane Matthew: Storm Weakens To Post-Tropical Cyclone, Moves Offshore; Recovery Efforts Continue
UPDATE 10/9/16 12:25 p.m
Governor Nathan Deal is lifting the mandatory evacuation order for coastal counties except for Chatham, where it won't be lifted until 5 p.m. At that point, Chatham County will be open to the public as well, though there will be a curfew in effect from 10 p.m.-7 a.m.
But local officials are encouraging people to wait until Monday morning to return because road conditions remain dangerous, with flooding and downed power lines in many areas. Chatham Emergency Management Director Dennis Jones says evacuees won't be returning to life as usual at home.
“You need to understand, you will not have power. You will not have water," says Jones. "You are essentially coming back to a shell of your home."
Crews are working to repair power lines and clear roads. In the meantime, Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach is asking residents to work together to start cleaning up debris in their neighborhoods. He's encouraging neighborhood associations and neighborhood watch groups to organize local cleanups - and to keep an eye out for possible looting. Police, Sheriff's deputies and the National Guard troops will also be patrolling for looting.
Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman says residents may not be able to return to the island even after re-entry begins for the rest of the county. Access to Tybee won't be restored until the state Department of Transportation deems bridges safe.
UPDATE 10/9/16 8:00 a.m.
Matthew is now a Post-Tropical Cyclone 60 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. and moving offshore. Flooding continues in North Carolina, and a hurricane watch is still in effect for part of the state's coast.
As the sun rises in coastal Georgia, the state Department of Transportation says crews are headed back out to continue clearing roadways. Re-entry to most of the coast is still prohibited for evacuees, and officials are still urging those who stayed to remain indoors while efforts to clean up and restore power are underway. A coastal flood warning is in effect for coastal parts of Glynn and Camden counties.
Chatham County officials have said they'll issue more details on a re-entry timeline at 10 a.m. Just under 203,000 Georgia Power customers remain without power.
A Red Cross shelter is now open at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center for those who are blocked from returning home or who find their homes uninhabitable.
County and municipal crews are focused on clearing trees for roadways, so officials say residents should contact their insurance providers about trees fallen on homes and property. Insurance providers may also help recoup the cost of frozen or refrigerated food lost due to power outages. Officials advise residents and business owners to clean and disinfect anything that got wet from floodwaters, which can pick up sewage and chemicals.
UPDATE 10/8/16 5:46 p.m.
Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott has confirmed two deaths during the storm. One man was found dead in his Isle of Hope home, which sustained damage from a fallen tree. Police have confirmed the man's death was weather-related. No details have been released about the second death.
Scott the county will announce plans for a re-entry timeline Sunday morning. In the meantime, officials continue to tell people to stay indoors. Chatham County will be under curfew 7 p.m.-7 a.m., and Bryan County has announced a mandatory stay-in-place curfew until further notice.
"I've been riding this entire county, and it's scary," Scott said. In addition to flooding and downed trees, he said there have been traffic collisions due to the lack of working traffic lights.
Officials say drivers should treat intersections without traffic lights as four-way stops.
Chatham Emergency Management Agency Director Dennis Jones says the county is working to provide shelter for people who stayed through the storm but whose homes are no longer safe. He says transportation to those shelters will be available by calling 912-201-4500.
The Chatham County Detention Center has no power and is running on generators with 1,600 inmates inside. The road to the jail was blocked but has been cleared, with some help from the sheriff using a chainsaw, according to Chairman Scott.
UPDATE 10/8/16 2:38 p.m.
Fallen trees and pools of water dotted Tybee Island along the Georgia coast after Hurricane Matthew slammed into the island.
Some homes suffered roof damage but otherwise appeared undamaged, even on the beach where windows without boards protecting them were unbroken.
"There's a little bit of water on the floor but nothing bad," said Debra Troop, a bartender who went to check on her workplace, Tybee Time Sports Bar, Saturday afternoon.
There was damage on the island. A car with a road sign on top of it. A fallen, twisted billboard by the road. A row of beachside rental condos with shingles and roofing torn off and shredded on the ground. A low-lying picnic area underwater behind City Hall.
"What I'm seeing is not nearly as bad as what I expected," Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman said after getting an airborne view by helicopter. "I was thinking last night when I was watching the radar at 2 o'clock this morning this was going to be a Katrina type situation."
A Chatham County Emergency Management official says there are some reports of injuries in the Savannah area but no deaths.
Director Dennis Jones said Saturday the county has trees and powerlines down on numerous roads and extensive flooding.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman says he had received reports of some with roof damage on the island, but said people with low-lying homes got through without flooding.
"We are hoping the lower than expected surge may have spared the lives of many individuals," Buelterman said.
County officials urged evacuees to stay away and to be patient. They gave no timetable for when residents will be able to return.
More than 280,000 homes and businesses still remain without power in coastal Georgia as state officials are focusing on restoring efforts after punishing winds and rains from Hurricane Matthew toppled trees and caused flooding.
Georgia Power emergency director Aaron Strickland says about 5,000 state agency and utility workers are entering the storm-struck counties Saturday, focusing their attention on reevaluating the area, restoring power and removing debris.
Gov. Nathan Deal reiterated at a news conference the importance of evacuees resisting the urge of returning to their homes after the storm passed. Chatham County experienced the most outages with more than 140,000. Other storm-struck counties include Glynn, Effingham, Bulloch and Liberty.
"I understand people are anxious to get back home. When they woke up this morning and the sun shining and the winds subsiding, the great temptation is to think that it's safe to return home," Deal said. "You will find out that's not the case. We are still in a dangerous situation."
UPDATE 10/8/16 1:33 p.m.
Georgia’s barrier islands experienced record storm surge as Hurricane Matthew passed just off the state’s coast overnight Friday.
That’s according to Governor Nathan Deal, who spoke with reporters in Atlanta Saturday morning.
He also stressed that the danger wasn’t over: fallen trees, flooded roadways, and downed power lines still threaten safety in coastal Georgia.
“We do not want fatalities to occur during the returning stages of people returning to their homes,” he said. “The damage from the water surge from the ocean and the heavy rainfall is damage enough.”
State troopers and national guardsmen have set up a security perimeter along I-95 between the Florida and South Carolina state lines to keep non-essential personnel out of the evacuated area.
It’s unclear when evacuees will be allowed to return, and the governor was hesitant to give a timeline for the recovery process. Instead, he urged patience.
“Be cautious. Be careful. Don’t re-enter an area until you’ve been given the clearance by either local authorities or our state authorities,” he said.
Deal said one fatality had been reported, but that the report was unconfirmed. He plans to head to coastal Georgia tomorrow to survey the damage firsthand.
UPDATE 10/8/16 12:25 p.m.
Officials are on their way to Tybee Island to assess the damage from Hurricane Matthew, and crews are assessing damage elsewhere as well. They're still urging people to stay indoors due to widespread flooding, downed trees and damaged power lines.
Most hospitals in Savannah are operating with little trouble. The St. Joseph's/Candler hospitals sustained no significant damages or flooding. Nor did Memorial Health's facilities.
Landmark Hospital CEO John Salandi says the 50-room facility is running on generator power. Salandi says the hospital is looking for more fuel by 3 p.m. or they will need to evacuate the 24 patients in the facility. Nine patients had been evacuated before the storm hit.
UPDATE 10/8/16 11:44 a.m.
All watches and warnings have been canceled for Georgia. Hurricane Matthew has moved on to South Carolina where it made landfall as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 75 mph. The hurricane continues to move northeast at 12 mph.
Problems related to wind and flooding rain are not anticipated in north and central Georgia today.
Residents are being asked to remain where they while state and local authorities assess damages, restore power, clear roadways and make repairs. Be patient as the timeline for people being able to return will vary depending on the degree of damage and storm impact.
UPDATE 10/8/16 9:04 a.m.
At 8 a.m., Matthew was centered about 20 miles southeast of Charleston, its winds having dropped to 85 mph, a Category 1 storm.
Some residents in Brunswick are waking up to some water covered roads blocked by fallen trees and downed power lines.
All access points to nearby St. Simons Island from the mainland also remained blocked on Saturday morning.
An online map from Glynn County shows dozens of damage reports across the city, but the extent of each report is unclear. The map says no reports are available from St. Simons Island.
Officials in far southeastern Camden County on Georgia's coast weren't immediately available Saturday morning.
The Georgia Department of Transportation's Southeast region is asking people to stay off the roads as power companies work on fallen power lines and DOT staff inspect bridges, assess roads and remove debris.
Early morning winds have calmed in parts of Brunswick. Overcast filled the skies and some light rain fell.
Savannah Fire is resuming normal operation and is back to responding to 911 calls
GDOT teams heading to all impacted areas - Focus on Bridge Inspections, Roadway Assessments and Debris Removal
Tidal waters swollen by storm surge from Hurricane Matthew have set a new record off the Georgia coast.
Chatham County officials said in a news release that a tidal gauge at Tybee Island measured 12.5 feet of water at high tide early Saturday as the storm churned just offshore. That broke a previous record of 12.2 feet set when Hurricane David came ashore in 1979.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman said that's about 4.5 feet higher than a normal high tide — a substantial storm surge, but about half the amount officials had feared.
The island of 3,000 residents was evacuated ahead of the storm, and all emergency responders left as well. Buelterman said he did not have any early assessments of flooding or damage.
Nearly 278,000 customers are without power in coastal Georgia where strong winds from Hurricane Matthew struck the area.
Georgia Power officials say Chatham County experienced the most outages with more than 141,312 early Saturday. Other counties in the storm-struck area include Glynn, Effingham, Bulloch and Liberty.
Spokesman John Kraft says utility company crewmembers are expected to head toward the storm-inflicted areas Saturday after the weather clears.
The Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) announced a new telephone line for residents seeking information regarding re-entry into Chatham County.
Following an evacuation, any Chatham County resident or business owner can call this number to obtain information on when it is safe to return home.
The CEMA Re-entry Hotline number is 1-855-880-2362 and is toll-free. Following an evacuation, any Chatham County resident or business owner can call this number to obtain information on when it is safe to return home.
UPDATE 10/8/16 6:27 a.m.
We're seeing widespread flooding and power outages on the coast, in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
Georgia Power says more than 278,000 customers are without power.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn, and Camden counties.
The Chatham Emergency Management Agency is telling people to remain sheltered and safe. Dangerous conditions remain, including 60 mph wind gusts. A gust of 93 mph has been reported on Tybee Island.
Portions of Interstate 95 are blocked by flooding and debris.
The Georgia Department of Transportation says two exits along I-95 were closed because of excessive water on the roadway in Liberty County. GDOT says fallen trees and power lines were blocking I-95 at the Georgia-South Carolina state line and had shut down U.S. 80, the highway that links Tybee Island to the mainland.
The National Weather Service says high tide at Ft. Pulaski was 12 feet due to storm surge, which could set an all-time record.
UPDATE 10/7/16 11:45 p.m.
Chatham County officials are still stressing that curfew will be enforced. "With such widespread vacancies, protecting our citizens' homes is a paramount concern," said County Manager Lee Smith in a statement.
Officials are also pushing patience on re-entry after the storm. They say some residents may be able to return before others, depending on the extent of the damage in various areas. They're promising more information once the storm moves out of the area.
UPDATE 10/7/16 11:26 p.m.
As of the National Hurricane Center's 11 p.m. update, Hurricane Matthew is 70 miles south-southeast of Savannah, still moving north at 12 mph. Savannah Fire and Emergency Services has suspended emergency response due to high winds and flooding, and firefighters will not respond to calls until conditions improve.
More than 135,000 Georgia Power customers have lost power.
UPDATE 10/7/16 10:11 p.m.
Hurricane Matthew is now 50 miles East-Southeast of of St. Simons and 90 miles South-Southeast of Savannah, moving north at 12 mph.
As wind gusts of 50-60 mph across the Jacksonville area, winds are starting to pick up farther north on the Georgia coast. A gust of 50 mph has been reported in Savannah, and a private weather station on Tybee Island has recorded a 64 mph gust.
The Savannah area has already started seeing storm surge effects, with 9 ft of water recorded at Ft. Pulaski earlier in the day and just under 7 ft at low tide this afternoon - close to normal high tide levels. Additional storm surge is likely as the storm gets closer to the area, possibly coinciding with high tide overnight.
The National Hurricane Center predicts 6-9 ft of storm surge along the entire Georgia coast.
The NHC notes, "Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances. Large waves generated by Matthew will cause water rises to occur well in advance of and well away from the track of the center."
Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Transportation is recommending people not return home immediately after the storm due to the likelihood of damage to roads and bridges, downed trees and other storm impacts.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the DOT says law enforcement will restrict eastbound movement to official vehicles and storm response personnel. The agency is asking everyone else to wait for official announcements that roads are open.
UPDATE 10/7/16 6:58 p.m.
Hurricane Matthew has weakened slightly to a Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds. Heavy rain continues to pound Florida and Georgia as the storm crawls north along the Atlantic coast. Threats from water (storm surge and flash flooding) are growing. Georgia Power reports there are more than 33,000 customers without power. More than 1.1 million people are now without power in Florida.
Glynn County has issued the following PSA:
The Glynn County Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor the very dangerous and life threatening category two Hurricane Matthew. Areas of Glynn County are beginning to experience tropical storm force winds and will continue to increase throughout the day. Due to deteriorating conditions, persons remaining in Glynn County are urged to “shelter-in-place” for the remainder of the storm. Emergency Services have ceased until conditions improve. Record setting storm surge has been reported in the Jacksonville, FL area and similar conditions are expected along the Glynn County coastline and barrier islands.
Glynn County, City of Brunswick and Jekyll Island Authority officials are urging residents not to return to the area until re-entry has been authorized by local officials. Time is needed after the storm has passed to assess storm damage and confirm that roadways and bridges are safe to travel. Conditions in the area after the storm could include no electricity, damage to water and sewer system and impassable roadways. An update on conditions and the status of authorization for re-entry will occur at noon on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
UPDATE 10/7/16 5:15 p.m.
Hurricane Matthew has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph with higher gusts. The western eyewall is expected to move over or very near the coast of northeastern Florida and Georgia tonight. The danger of storm surge inundation and inland flooding remain a top concern.
According to the National Hurricane Center, "Matthew is moving toward the north near 12 mph, and this motion is expected to continue tonight. A turn toward the north-northeast and then to the northeast is expected on Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will continue to move near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia through tonight, and near or over the coast of South Carolina on Saturday."
Earlier today, President Obama emphasized the readiness of FEMA to assist those affected by the storm. “There's been strong cooperation between federal and state and local officials. FEMA has worked diligently to pre-position resources, assets, water, food, commodities. And as the hurricane moves north, what Craig [Fugate, FEMA Director] and his team will be doing is moving those resources and assets further north so that any place that happens to get hit badly, we'll be in a position to immediately come in and help.”
UPDATE 10/7/16 4:20 p.m.
The current National Weather Service forecast for Georgia calls for 'Total Rainfall though Saturday' and 'Maximum Wind Gusts' from Hurricane Matthew. With the Savannah River on the brink of spilling over, River Street has been closed.
Hurricane Matthew is bashing the northeastern coast of Florida with high winds and storm surge. According to the National Hurricane Center’s latest update, “A tide gauge at Fernandina Beach recently reported a storm surge inundation of 4.17 ft. The Racy Point tidal gauge near the St. John's River recently reported a storm surge inundation of 4.10 ft.”
UPDATE 10/7/16 2:18 p.m.
Wind speeds of 115 miles per hour are being reported by the National Hurricane Center.
UPDATE 10/7/16 1:58 p.m.
Reports of power outages continue to climb with more than 1100 without power in the Brunswick area and 1700 in Savannah. You can check Georgia Power’s outage map here.
Contra-flow on I-16 has ended, but eastbound lanes will remain closed from Statesboro to Savannah.
Glenn County and Chatham County have declared dusk to dawn curfews.
At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Gov. Deal and other state officials warned that emergency response may not be available up to 72 hours after Matthew passes.
Hurricane Matthew is still expected to pass around late afternoon tomorrow. It will take time for bridges, roads and other structures to be inspected. Evacuees are encouraged to refrain from immediately returning to their homes in order to give utility crews the time and space to make it a safe return.
There are 800 GDOT crews ready to respond for debris removal and initial assessments. Seven manned critical action teams along the coast to help with re-entry. All 175 DNR rangers are deployed or are ready for immediate deployment.
The Georgia National Guard has activated 1000 members to assist with storm preparation and an additional 1000 are on standby.
There are currently about 9000 people at 30 shelters across the state. An additional 6500 people evacuated to over 50 state parks.
Nine nursing homes and four hospitals were evacuated. There were at least 1,032 patients including 19 in critical care.
UPDATE 10/7/16 12:10 p.m.
Hotel rooms in the state are becoming hard to find as residents from Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina flee Hurricane Matthew.
That’s according to Georgia Tourism. The state agency has been helping match evacuees with places to stay.
“Right now we are in very limited to no availability in huge portions of the state,” said spokeswoman Emily Murray. "We’re getting one off’s: some hotels will call us and say they have two rooms available or things like that, but hotels in Georgia are getting very very scarce right now."
Murray says Georgia Tourism is working with agencies in Tennessee and Alabama to help find empty rooms there.
UPDATE 10/7/16 11:58 a.m.
Georgia Department of Corrections’ (GDC) Commissioner Homer Bryson announced this morning that, in keeping with Governor Nathan Deal’s directive of mandatory evacuations along coastal Georgia east of I-95, offenders from GDC facilities located in the affected counties have been safely relocated to other facilities across the state.
At approximately 6:30 p.m., Thursday, October 6, GDC staff from across the state began moving 1,286 offenders from Coastal State Prison and 257 Coastal Transitional Center residents to other facilities within Georgia not affected by the approaching storm. As of 7:30 a.m., Friday, October 7, the combined total of 1,543 offenders had been safely transported.
UPDATE 10/7/16 11:21 a.m.
Gov. Nathan Deal will have a news conference on Hurricane Matthew preparations at 12:30 p.m.
Chatham County and Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police have announced there will be a curfew tonight from dusk until dawn.
EMS services in Chatham County will cease at the onset of gale force winds
Pt. Wentworth Fire department will cease response to fire calls at the onset of gale force winds.
All emergency staff have evacuated Tybee Island.
UPDATE 10/7/16 11:02 a.m.
Many of Georgia’s State Parks are available to take in evacuees from Hurricane Matthew. While the park cabins and campsites may already be full, the Department of Natural Resources is accommodating travelers as best as possible.
Enclosed shelters without bedding may be available, so evacuees should bring sleeping bags and pillows if possible. Check www.GaStateParks.org and the Georgia State Parks Facebook page for park locations and updates.
The following Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites are closed at this time: Crooked River, Skidaway Island, Stephen C. Foster, Fort McAllister, Fort Morris, Reynolds Mansion, Fort King George, Hofwyl-Broadfield and Wormsloe.
UPDATE 10/7/16 10:32 a.m.
UPDATED SHELTER INFORMATION:
There are currently 18 Red Cross shelters operating in Georgia. Three are full.
In Laurens County – Dublin High School and West Laurens High School.
In Moultrie – First Baptist Church is open.
In Macon – North Macon Community Center, Hephzibah Children’s home, and East Macon Recreation Center are open.
In Tift County – Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College is open.
In Swainsboro – Swainsboro Recreation Center is full.
In Richmond County- Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church, Butler High School , TW Josey High School, Glen Hills High School are open.
In Ware County- Waycross Middle School is full.
In Peach County- Fire Station #1 and Fire Station # 6 are both open.
In Coffee County-Central Square Complex is open.
In Valdosta - Park Avenue United Methodist Church is full, but Cross Point Church is open.
For up to the minute updates on shelters, call 1-800-Red-Cross.
There are animal-only shelters in Greene and Putnam counties and Equine-only shelters in Colquitt and Houston counties. Find out more about animal friendly shelters at http://agr.georgia.gov/
UPDATE 10/7/16 10:07 a.m.
The National Hurricane Center reports: Matthew's eyewall is brushing the coast near Daytona Beach. During the past hour, a private weather station near New Smyrna Beach, FL reported sustained winds of 63 mph and a gust to 84 mph. A wind gust of 71 mph has recently been reported in Daytona Beach.
UPDATE 10/7/16 10:01 a.m.
For animal shelter locations that are operating through the storm, check the Georgia Department of Agriculture's site.
UPDATE 10/7/16 9:44 a.m.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew is now less than 100 miles from Jacksonville.
Talmadge Bridge in Savannah is closing at 12 p.m. to all traffic in preparation for the storm.
The Sidney Lanier Bridge on SR 25 in Brunswick-Glynn Co at 10am today, Oct 7 due to anticipated gale-force winds.
This morning, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency has issued an update on evacuation routes and shelter locations.
Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick has evacuated all hospital patients. The emergency room is closed.
UPDATE 10/7/16 7:26 a.m.
Matthew has weakened slightly to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds near 120 mph. But the U.S. National Hurricane Center says it's expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it moves closer to the coasts of Florida and Georgia. Hurricane and tropical storm warnings remain in effect for costal and inland counties.
President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration for Georgia Thursday night. Gov. Nathan Deal said several state agencies are collaborating to help locals evacuate. But the governor says people looking to stay put and endure the storm are endangering themselves.
UPDATE 10/6/16 11:11 a.m.
National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Matthew has strengthened to Category 4 storm.
UPDATE 10/6/16 10:11 a.m.
Gov. Deal has ordered mandatory evacuation east of I-95 for 6 coastal counties: Bryan, Chatham, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn & Camden.
Georgia State Patrol is closing eastbound ramps to I-16 as Hurricane Matthew moves north. All traffic to be westbound only.
UPDATE 10/6/16 9:47 a.m.
State officials encourage voluntary evacuation of all coastal counties and low-lying areas beginning immediately.
The governor has expanded the State of Emergency to 30 counties: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Camden, Candler, Chatham, Clinch, Coffee, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Jenkins, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne and Ware.
If you are traveling in the St. Marys/Brunswick area you are advised to move inland, take State Route 520/ U.S. 82 west to I-75 north.
For coastal Georgia areas, take westerly evacuation routes such as:
State Route 32 West OR State Route 520 West to I-75 North
U-S 341 to McRae and then take U-S 441 North to I-16.
For regions including Clinch, Ware, Pierce, Atkinson, Lowndes, Brooks, Colquitt, Tift, Turner and Bacon counties: Take State Route 520/U-S 82 west or State Route 32 west to I-75 North.
UPDATE 10/6/16 8:49 a.m.
A mandatory evacuation order is now in effect for Glynn County east of I-95, as well as Blyth and Oak Grove Islands. Glynn and Camden counties are under a hurricane warning. Forecasters expect conditions to deteriorate throughout the day. Glynn officials say key routes including the Jekyll Island and FJ Torras Causeways will likely need to close due to flooding when the storm hits. The state will close the Sidney Lanier bridge when sustained winds reach between 40 and 45 miles per hour.
Evacuation is now mandatory for Chatham County east of the Wilmington River and for low-lying areas throughout the county, including Skidaway Island and all areas near rivers and tributaries.
A tropical storm warning is also in effect for counties further inland on the southern Georgia coast.
UPDATE 10/5/16 8:13 p.m.
Gov. Nathan Deal is encouraging residents in six coastal counties to evacuate, ahead of Hurricane Matthew’s arrival.
“The National Hurricane Center predicts Hurricane Matthew will include excessive rainfall, strong winds and potential flooding,” Deal said in a statement Wednesday night. “Because of this, I’m encouraging a voluntary evacuation for residents in Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden counties.”
In addition, the governor expanded a state of emergency to 17 inland counties: Screven, Jenkins, Emanuel, Treutlen, Candler, Toombs, Tattnall, Jeff Davis, Appling, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Ware, Atkinson, Clinch, Burke and Echols.
The City of Tybee Island has issued a mandatory evacuation, effective 3 p.m. Wednesday, as Hurricane Matthew approaches the state. Glynn County commissioners issued a voluntary evacuation for St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea Islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes as well.
Chatham County officials are also urging residents of the islands and low-lying areas east of the Wilmington River to evacuate beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Bryan County has issued a voluntary evacuation for South Bryan, barrier islands and low-lying areas.
The storm is expected to cross the Bahamas Wednesday and Thursday, nearing the Florida coast Thursday night.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the Georgia coast and coastal waters off of Georgia and South Carolina. Forecasters expect the worst impact on Friday off the southern Georgia coast, and Friday night into Saturday morning farther north.
Officials say there is uncertainty about the forecast, meaning the projected track and pace of the storm could continue to change over the next several days but officials expect the storm’s arrival Friday night to coincide with a high tide, which will likely lead to flooding on Highway 80 and in other flood-prone areas. Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott said several feet of water could flood the only route to Tybee Island.
Scott warned that widespread power outages are likely even in areas not prone to flooding. He said anyone who stays should prepare for potential power loss for 72 hours or more, including enough drinking water and non-perishable food to last that time. Scott noted that in the event of outages, crews cannot begin restoring power until the heavy wind dissipates.
In advance of the storm, Savannah-Chatham schools have closed for the rest of the week, and Glynn County schools will close Thursday and Friday. Bulloch County schools will close Friday. Other area school districts say they are monitoring the storm and will announce any closures or schedule changes.
SCAD, Armstrong State University, Savannah State University and the College of Coastal Georgia have canceled classes and university events. Armstrong and CCGA are closing residence halls as well. SSU is encouraging residential students to leave campus.
A number of community events have also been canceled or postponed, including the First Friday Art March, St. Simons Food and Spirits Festival, River Street Oktoberfest, Tybee Island Pirate Fest, Savannah Bicycle Campaign's Midnight Garden Ride, the Junior League thrift sale and Habitat for Humanity's World Habitat Day Ceremony.
The American Red Cross has opened a number of shelters across Georgia including the following:
* Bibb County: Hephzibah Children’s Home, 6601 Zebulon Road, Macon, GA 31220
* Bibb County: North Macon Community Center, 815 North Macon Park Drive, Macon, GA 31220
* Bibb County: East Macon Recreation Center, 31217 Ocmulgee E. Blvd., Macon, GA 31201
* Bibb County: Macon City Auditorium, 415 First Street, Macon, GA 31201
* Colquitt County: First Baptist Church, 400 Main Street, Moultrie, GA 31768
* Emanuel County: Swainsboro Rec. Dept., 632 McLeod Bridge Road, Swainsboro, GA 30401
* Laurens County: Dublin High School, 1127 Hillcrest Parkway, Dublin, GA 31021
* Laurens County: East Laurens High School, 920 Highway 80 E., East Dublin, GA 31027
* Laurens County: West Laurens High School, 3692 Highway 257, Dexter, GA 31019
* Lowndes County: Park Avenue United Methodist Church, 100 E. Park Avenue, Valdosta, GA 31602
*Peach County: Byron Fire Station #1 6711 Peach Parkway Highway 49, Byron, GA 31008
* Peach County: Peach County Fire Station 6, 1770 US Hwy 341, Fort Valley, GA 31030
* Richmond County: Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church, 1330 Monte Sano Avenue, Augusta, GA 30904
* Tift County: Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College 2802 Moore Hwy, Tifton, GA 31793
* Tift County: Tift County Recreation Dept., 7140 North Victory Drive, Tifton, GA 31794
* Ware County: Waycross Middle School, 700 Central Avenue, Waycross, GA 31501
As this is a breaking story, this post will continued to be updated.