Tybee Island reopens as evacuation order lifted for Chatham County

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Tybee Island reopens as evacuation order lifted for Chatham County

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Irma brought even worse flooding than Matthew did in October 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Cheryl McDaniel

TYBEE ISLAND — An evacuation order in place for Chatham County has been lifted and Tybee Island is now open.

The Chatham County Emergency Management Agency posted the update on its website Friday afternoon, notifying people that they could return to the county.

The Talmadge Bridge is clsoed and will remain closed unitl an inspection is complted and it is deemed safe, the agency posted.

An overnight curfew was lifted at 6 a.m. today, but residents won’t have many options unless they’re traveling by boat - or helicopter, as Mayor Jason Buelterman has had to do. He airlifted over after the storm to check on things and afterward said flooding due to Hurricane Irma - which was Tropical Storm Irma by the time it arrived - was even worse that the soaking Hurricane Matthew brought in October 2016.

Given Irma’s statewide impact, it’s unclear when inspectors will be able to check out the bridges leading from Tybee.

The bridge to Tybee Island is blocked at the Bull River until further notice. An officer standing guard said he didn't have any information regarding when people would be able to come or go. Photo: Jennifer Brett, jbrett@ajc.com

“We even called the White House to make them aware of the situation,” Buelterman said in a social media post. “We know that we have many people who want to get off the Island - as we have no power - and many, many more trying to get on the Island.”

The city’s 911 system is down as well.

“This is a rough day for our community but we will work to get through it all together,” Buelterman said.

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Early forecasts suggested Irma would slam Georgia’s coast with an even greater force than Matthew did, and Thursday evening found residents hurriedly stuffing sandbags.

On Thursday evening, with Hurricane Irma still expected to strike Georgia’s east coast, residents of this low-lying island -some of whom had just barely recovered from Hurricane Matthew - hustled to stuff sandbags and board up. 

“Absolutely, no question about it, we’re preparing more this time,” Brian Hussey said as he hefted shovels full of sand. Matthew turned his family’s island home into a swamp, prompting his fevered preparation ahead of Irma.

But by Saturday, the storm’s projected path had shifted so far west that some folks were out surfing. 

"To hell with the storm,” one guy said.

Irma's flooding was even harder on Tybee Island than Matthew's was. Photo: Courtesy of Melissa Turner
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