UPDATE: 12:55 p.m. Public schools in Forsyth County will be closed Monday for students and staff.
Monday will not be an online learning day, according to Hannah Samples, a spokeswoman for Forsyth County Schools.
Forsyth County is under a tropical storm warning due to the
approaching Hurricane Irma, which began to batter the Florida Keys, Miami, Tampa
and much of the state Sunday morning.
A tropical storm warning means tropical storm-level wind conditions are expected within the next 36 hours. According to the National Weather Service, the peak wind forecast shows 25-35-mile-per-hour winds with gusts up to 50 mph.
The Associated Press reported the warning is the first-ever for Atlanta.
“Emergency planning should include a reasonable threat for tropical storm force wind of 39 to 57 mph,” the agency says. “To be safe, prepare for the potential of limited wind impacts. Efforts should now be underway to secure all properties.”
Potential impacts include damage to porches, awnings, carports, sheds and un-anchored mobile homes. Large tree limbs may break off, and some fences and roadway signs may be blown over, according to the warning.
County and emergency personnel officials in Forsyth County met last night and will continue to meet twice a day to prepare for the storm and any changes that occur in forecasts, said Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers, a spokesman for the agency.
The Forsyth County Emergency Management Agency is preparing "as if we're going to be in the path of some type of impact," though the exact impact is still uncertain, Shivers said.
Shivers said the biggest concern for Forsyth County is wind and it bringing down trees and power lines.
He suggested people prepare for the storm like they do for winter weather -- stock non-perishable food items, water, a can opener, medications, cash and flashlights ready to use in case there are a few days without power.
"Secure loose items around your home that can be blown around," Shivers said. "Take this seriously."
He said the fire department will begin bringing in overtime staff Monday for response efforts and that other county departments have staff available to assist the fire department and Forsyth County Sheriff's Office with chainsaw deployment.
Power outages and blocked roads are associated with the warning.
“Official National Hurricane Center track has Irma crossing the Lower Florida Keys this afternoon through Monday morning. Irma should move inland over the Florida panhandle and southwestern Georgia by Monday afternoon. Irma will remain a powerful hurricane as it approaches the Florida Keys and moves up the west coast of Florida,” according to a statement from the agency. “As Irma moves into central Georgia, portions of the watch area can expect tropical storm force winds beginning late Sunday night.
“During the day Monday, the greatest impacts will be felt with winds increasing to 40-50 miles per hour with gusts as high as 70 mph and east of the center of the storm track.
“Because of the wet spring and early summer, the forecasted wind speeds will easily bring down trees down across the area, which will also lead to widespread power outages.”
A flash flood watch is also in effect with peak amounts of 3-5 inches, with “locally higher amounts.”
“Rivers and tributaries may quickly rise with swifter currents. Small streams, creeks and ditches may become swollen and overflow in spots,” the agency says. “Flood waters can enter a few structures, especially in usually vulnerable spots.”
The NWS does, however, say there is no forecast for tornadoes.
Friday night 1,185 people sought refuge in 13 evacuation centers in Georgia. “Our priority today is to give people a safe place to ride out this storm,” said Adelaide Kirk, executive director for the American Red Cross of West Central Georgia, who is helping oversee operations at the Columbus Civic Center. “We’re encouraging people to bring extra blankets, pillows and personal items that will make their stay more comfortable.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.