State of emergency expanded to include 16 more Georgia counties
Georgia is bracing for a heavy blow from Hurricane Michael. Gov. Nathan Deal today expanded a state of emergency to now include 108 counties in Georgia. He urges those in the storm’s path to take the weather warnings seriously.
“This is a dangerous, dangerous hurricane. It is unlike any storm that we have had in anybody’s memory,” Deal warns. “We’re not accustomed to the magnitude of a hurricane such as this hitting in the direction that it is traveling and with the intensity with which it will hit our state.”
Deal made his comments during a press conference this afternoon at the State Operations Center for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security. He appeared alongside top state emergency officials.
“We’re at full-scale activation here at the state level and state personnel dedicated to the response to this storm currently extends to about 2,300 people in addition to 1,500 National Guardsmen,” says GEMA/HS Director Homer Bryson.
Gov. Nathan Deal and other senior officials, including Dr. Patrick O’Neal, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, spoke at a news conference at noon Wednesday about preparations for Michael.
O’Neal said large shelters had been set up in Muscogee County (the Columbus area) and Bibb County (Macon) and that numerous other “Good Samaritan” facilities would be available in affected areas of Georgia.
At the news conference, Deal said that, based on the expected track of the storm, he had extended the state of emergency from 92 to 108 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
The governor noted that this hurricane’s path and intensity are an unusual combination, and make it likely to inflict “serious damage” in Georgia. Saving lives must be the immediate priority, he added.
“It’s not going to be a simple walk away from it with no damage. It’s going to be one with serious damage. Life should be the primary concern. Protect yourself, protect your family. Help those who need assistance. Georgians are great people. They have big hearts and they reach out to help their neighbor in need. This is a time when that is going to be called upon without any doubt.”
Deal and state Agriculture Secretary Gary Black referred to another worrisome aspect of the storm: its timing. It’s roaring into farm country in South and Middle Georgia at a season when some important crops are still in the fields. By hitting these unharvested crops, Michael will strike a blow “deep into the heart of Georgia agriculture,” Black said.
Many of the rural counties likely to be affected are already among the state’s poorest, especially when it comes to medical services.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has deployed Special Response Teams across the state to assist with hurricane response. The SRT’s include:
- 400 responders in southwest Georgia
- 400 responders in coastal Georgia
- 175 responders in east central Georgia
- 175 responders in west central Georgia
- Eight bridge inspection teams in areas expected to be most impacted
- CHAMP units in GDOT Districts 3, 4, and 5 have added additional shifts and are now operating for 24-hours
GDOT says the teams will begin clearing impacted roadways once the worst of the storm passes. In the event of major flooding, crews will wait until waters recede to begin clean up. Priority routes will be cleared first to ensure the public maintains access to hospitals, trauma centers and other public facilities.
Andy Miller of GHN contributed to this report