10 September, 2017
Georgia's governor on Thursday ordered almost 540,000 coastal residents to evacuate inland ahead of Hurricane Irma as authorities warned the storm had the potential to strike as a major hurricane, something the Georgia coast hasn't seen in more than a century. "These actually believe it or not have been here since Hurricane Hugo", said Gray Little of Little Hardware, pointing to a group of kerosene lanterns.
The governor said he would wait until the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center on Irma before making the final decision. He urged residents to get prepared for the hurricane and activated members of the South Carolina National Guard to help coordinate with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.
"If there's a freight train coming at you, then you get off the tracks", said Jason Buelterman, mayor of Tybee Island, a beach community of more than 3,000 residents east of Savannah. "That may change at 6 o'clock this evening".
The governor also rescinded parts of an order signed Thursday requiring health care facilities in all coastal counties to move patients inland and not take new, non-emergency patients.
McMaster said the only mandatory evacuations will be the barrier islands of Colleton, Beaufort and Jasper Counties.
McMaster said he is leaving it up to local school districts to decide whether to cancel classes for early next week.
We've been keeping a close eye on the interstates.
McMaster said he understands that people don't want to leave their homes and businesses unless absolutely necessary, but he will make a call with other state emergency officials. Evacuees from Florida and Georgia are heading to or through the Palmetto State in large numbers.
Eastern Florida State College will be closed Thursday though Sunday, and Florida Tech campus will be closed Friday through Monday.
Governor Henry McMaster issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency around noon Wednesday.
"The state of emergency allows one of the best, most experienced emergency response teams in the entire world to begin organizing response efforts", said McMaster. There is a tremendous amount of stress now on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. "This is not a storm that you can say, 'Oh, it's a 1, '" Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea told WMBF News. "I am concerned about spot shortages due to a panic". After that, they put the bridges up and we're either stuck in or out.
Irma, the swirling, monster category 4 storm expected to make landfall in South Florida before moving up Florida and deeper into the southeast.