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HURRICANE IRMA: Too soon to tell impact, but Georgia preparing
Hurricane Irma

With Forsyth County residents still volunteering and sending supplies to those suffering the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the state’s top meteorologist is waiting to see what impact a new massive storm could have on Georgia and Forsyth County.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, has already hit islands in the Caribbean and could make landfall in south Georgia by this weekend or early next week.  State Climatologist Bill Murphey said it isn’t clear yet what impact the storm may have on Forsyth County and the surrounding area.

It is not clear what impact Hurricane Irma will have locally, but Forsyth County’s Emergency Management Agency recommends having the following items and more in case of bad weather or other disasters.

  • One gallon of water for drinking and sanitation per person per day for at least three days
  • Non-perishable food to last at least three days
  • Flashlights
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radios and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Extra batteries for radios and flashlights
  • Whistles for signaling for help
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications and glasses
  • Fluids with electrolytes
  • Thermometer
  • Extra food and water for pets
  • Sleeping bag for each person

To view the full disaster supply kit and additional items, go to ForsythCo.com/Departments-Offices/Emergency-Management-Agency/Disaster-Supply-Kit

“At this stage since there is still ample time for shifts in the forecast track of the strong tropical cyclone as it gains latitude, which makes it really tough to nail down impacts across north Georgia at this early stage,” Murphey said in an email on Wednesday, “I will say that any further eastward shift in track forecasts is a good thing for Georgia and would help mitigate impacts further inland.”

Murphey said circumstances over the next few days will determine how the hurricane will affect the area.

“A lot of factors are at play here, one of them being how soon and a location of a possible second landfall,” he said. “Also, the duration that it stays over open water will affect further intensification, plus the strong high to the north will play a role in strengthening of the wind field.”

Irma had winds of 185 miles per hour on Wednesday, making it the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever measured, as it raked across Caribbean islands nearer to south Florida. Forecasters said tropical storm-force winds could reach Georgia over the weekend and possibly South Carolina soon after, though Irma’s exact path remained uncertain still days away.

Also on Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for the six Georgia counties on the coast (Camden, Glynn, McIntosh, Liberty, Bryan and Chatham) and another 24 inland counties in the southeast portion of the state. Deal is expected to make further announcements about the storm on Friday morning.

He also issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas east of Interstate-95, all of Chatham County and for some areas west of I-95 that could be impacted by the storm surge. In the same order, Deal authorized up to 5,000 National Guard members to be on state active duty to support response and recovery efforts.

Emergency officials said they are worried a dangerous storm surge would leave Georgia’s Tybee Island on the Atlantic coast especially vulnerable, as well as those living along marshes and streams in the Savannah area. Savannah’s downtown historic district, however, sits on a 40-foot bluff above the Savannah River.

Chatham County Emergency Management Director Dennis Jones told reporters Wednesday that many first responders and emergency planners probably won’t stick around if Irma arrives with the fury it has been showing in the Caribbean.

“We don’t have a sturdy enough facility to support a major category storm,” Jones said, adding that “first responders, critical workforce” and others would establish operations further inland in Statesboro.

The hurricane could make landfall in south Florida by Sunday morning. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has issued mandatory evacuations for portions of Miami-Dade County and voluntary evacuations for other south Florida counties.

Drivers and travelers should also take note that those leaving the affected area could increase traffic on Georgia roads.

Murphey said the amount of rain from the storm will depend on the other factors and recommended keeping up with the storm’s development through the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

“As for precipitation, there should be a fairly sharp gradient as to who gets what relative to where the center [of the storm] tracks and depending on how the outer bands set up,” he said. “So, with several more model runs to go, the best bet for all would be to keep checking NHC and NWS for updated forecasts and tracks as this is a constantly evolving forecast.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.