Georgia Declares State of Emergency as Hurricane Florence Charges Toward Coast

Hurricane Florence Emergency
Associated Press

Georgia’s governor has declared a state of emergency for all 159 counties as forecasters now say Hurricane Florence could take a southwest turn.

In a news release Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) says the state “is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Florence.”

“In light of the storm’s forecasted southward track after making landfall, I encourage Georgians to be prepared for the inland effects of the storm as well as the ensuing storm surge in coastal areas,” Deal said. “GEMA/HS continues to lead our preparedness efforts as we coordinate with federal, state and local officials to provide public shelter and accommodate those evacuating from other states.”

Deal’s declaration on Wednesday comes as the National Weather Service’s storm forecast shows a chance that Florence’s track might turn toward the southwest as it approaches the Carolinas later this week. No storm watches or warnings are in effect for Georgia. However, forecasters say there’s an increased chance for tropical storm winds to reach Savannah. The order is aimed at easing regulations on trucks hauling gasoline and relief supplies into the state.

Further up the coast, Virginia on Wednesday morning opened two state-managed shelters to assist people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Florence. Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-VA) office said in a statement that they are open to Virginians or residents of other states who have nowhere else to go. No identification or proof of residency is required to seek shelter. The statement says 24 localities across the state are opening local shelters as well. Cities and counties have been distributing information about those sites through their websites and social media pages.

Virginia is under a state of emergency as Florence approaches, and Northam has issued a mandatory evacuation order for around 245,000 people in the state’s lowest-lying coastal areas. Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) is urging residents in evacuation zones to move to safety, saying the effects of Hurricane Florence are “only hours away.” Cooper spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning with other emergency management officials. The governor said there’s still time for coastal residents to evacuate if their home is at risk and time for others to finish preparing for the storm. Cooper warned, “Disaster is at the doorstep, and it’s coming in.”

“No matter where the storm comes ashore, it will have widespread, significant impacts,” he continued. “Every county and every person in North Carolina needs to stay alert and take this storm seriously.”

“Power plants are taking all necessary preparations to protect property and have staff ready to help people get power back after the storm. We are well positioned to assist with power needs,” he added. Further, the governor also announced he had activated more National Guard soldiers. Emergency management officials said 3,000 would be on active duty by Wednesday evening, with more on standby.

Residents of South Carolina who thought they were going to be safe from Hurricane Florence are now rushing to prepare after a slight change in the forecast. Current forecast models have the hurricane shifting south. Previously, North Carolina was forecast to be more at risk.

Chris Pennington was boarding up the windows of his Myrtle Beach house late Wednesday morning after noticing that the latest forecast has Florence coming inland nearly over his home. Pennington says he is still leaning toward staying put, but that he’ll keep a really close eye on the weather and leave by Thursday afternoon if necessary. He says one reason for staying is that his wife would be available to help if needed at the local animal hospital where she works.

President Donald Trump is urging those in the path of Hurricane Florence to act now to “get out of its way.” The president made his comments in a videotaped message from the Rose Garden that he tweeted out on Wednesday morning.

President Trump affirmed the federal government and first responders stand ready to assist, but even so, “Bad things can happen when you’re talking about a storm this size.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.