Governor Deal held a press conference Friday morning at the Capitol where he and several heads of state agencies gave updates on Hurricane Irma. The latest forecast show Irma as potentially even more devastating than Hurricane Matthew. The Executive Branch has now issued a State of Emergency for 30 counties on or near the coast. There is a mandatory evacuation order for all areas east of I-95. Deal is warning that unlike Matthew, Irma may not hit at low tide and this storm surge could be particularly damaging.
The GEMA Director is recommending that evacuees out of Florida travel further north into Georgia in case the storm turns bad in south Georgia. There are over 7,000 beds in shelters that can accommodate people as needed. For up to date information from GEMA – gema.ga.gov/
I-16 will be contra-flowed out of Savannah and towards Macon to Dublin on Saturday. This means there will be no eastbound lanes on I-16 on Saturday. GDOT figures there is no need for anyone to be traveling in that direction on Saturday. GDOT is planning for Irma to very much be a “tree event”, with trees down across roads and power poles. Clearing the roads for emergency services to get in and out will be the immediate priority for GDOT.
The Georgia National Guard is moving sensitive equipment out of the possible impact zone – Chinooks and C-130s will be flown out of Savannah. They will have units stationed at armories with supplies ready to move in as quickly as possible as needed. Attorney General Chris Carr will also be using the powers that come with an emergency declaration, notably guarding against price gouging. Cases will be investigated and prosecuted.
DNR will not be charging entrance fees or pet fees to evacuees. Once all cabins, yurts and campsites fill, the DNR will allow evacuees to “dry camp” at no cost. Areas for “dry camping” will include parking lots, fields, group shelters and similar locations. Parks not in the affected area are accepting evacuees until they reach maximum capacity. There are a few thousand dry camping spots available. You can find more info about shelters and camping here – http://gastateparks.org/Alerts
The Department of Public Health is busy evacuating particularly at risk patients out of hospitals in affected areas. NICU babies have been evacuated out in a sensitive process that requires more than just a standard ambulance for those vulnerable little bodies. They hope to have a physician or health care professional in every shelter to both assist evacuees as needed but also to guard against outbreaks of ailments that can occur among large groups of people living together.