WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Georgia prepares for recovery as Dorian accelerates toward coast
After battering the Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian has moved close to Central Florida’s coast as it crawls toward Georgia’s coastline Tuesday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The coast of Georgia is under a tropical storm warning for later Wednesday into early Thursday, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologists.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reporters and photographers covering evacuation efforts on the Georgia coast and in Savannah. The AJC is also covering relief efforts in metro Atlanta.
Here are the latest updates:
11 p.m. update: Hurricane Dorian’s projected path has shifted slightly, and Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz said it’s good news for Georgia.
The Category 2 storm’s outer bands continue to lash Central Florida’s coastline, but the hurricane will be east of Georgia’s coast by 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nitz said. It’s new projected path has Dorian moving further out to sea when it nears Georgia, which means less of the coastline should see tropical storm force winds, he said.
However, the coastline will still see plenty of effects. Even with the slight shift, Dorian will come within about 75 to 80 miles from Georgia, he said.
Gov. Brian Kemp will also hold a press conference with the Georgia and Federal emergency management agencies at noon Wednesday.
8 p.m. update: Hurricane Dorian’s outer bands of rain are beginning to hit Central Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is also moving at 6 mph, which is slightly faster than it was Tuesday morning.
Dorian’s expected path hasn’t changed much, and it’s still expected to turn north by Wednesday evening, the Hurricane Center. Sustained winds remain at 110 mph.
5:45 p.m. update: Gov. Brian Kemp urged coastal Georgia residents who have refused to heed evacuation orders to leave for safer ground now, warning that the latest forecast models show Hurricane Dorian skating treacherously close to the state’s coastline.
The governor said Tuesday that the monstrous storm is expected to bring 55-65 mph winds and a storm surge of up to 7 feet off Georgia’s coast when it barrels into the area late Wednesday night.
“We need people to evacuate. I know it’s been pretty down there today. I know the track is showing it not hitting Georgia ... but this is not a storm to mess with,” he said, adding: “If you haven’t moved yet, move tonight or first thing in the morning.”
Kemp has taken a better-safe-than-sorry approach as Dorian creeps closer to Georgia. The governor late Sunday ordered evacuations for residents east of I-95 in six coastal counties, then traveled to Brunswick and Savannah to urge them to leave.
“Hopefully this storm will move back to the east,” said Kemp. “There’s a reason we ordered the evacuation: To keep people safe. It’s not worth it to get stranded out there.”
He added: “We do not want to have a death in Georgia because of the storm, because of somebody not taking it seriously.”
Homer Bryson, the state’s top emergency management agency official, said forecasters are worried the hurricane is moving so slowly that it could gain strength by recharging in warmer water by the time it reaches Georgia.
“People that stay: Not only are you going to be cut off, but your power is going to be out. And your cities and counties are going to cut off your water systems and your waste systems,” said Bryson, who asked that coastal residents “err on the side of caution.”
“The only thing you’ve done by staying there is increasing the probability that you’re going to get hurt.”
5 p.m. update: By Tuesday afternoon, Dorian was about 105 miles east of Vero Beach, Florida, and moving northwest at about 6 mph, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center at 5 p.m.
The storm was expected to move slightly faster toward the northwest tonight, and a turn north was expected by Wednesday evening.
Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days, the update said.
Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are expected along parts of the Florida, Georgia and Carolina coasts.
A threat of flash floods will also increase during the middle and latter part of the week.
The storm led Delta Airlines to cancel more than 180 flights Tuesday and Wednesday. Southwest Airlines canceled 500 departures and American Airlines, a major carrier in the Caribbean, said it had canceled 350 flights Tuesday, 180 flights for Wednesday and 40 flights for Thursday.
4:15 p.m. update: Hurricane Dorian is expected to be along the Georgia coast by tomorrow night, Channel 2 chief meteorologist Glenn Burns said Tuesday afternoon.
The storm is “beginning to weaken slightly," Burns said.
By 8 a.m. Wednesday, the center of Dorian will be east of St. Augustine, Florida, moving about 5 mph. Twelve hours later, at about 8 p.m., the storm will be 90 miles east of St. Simons and 80 miles SE of Savannah, with 110 mph sustained winds.
There will be "some coastal impacts in Georgia but they won't stretch inland," said Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz.
>> STORM IMPACTS | Airlines cancel hundreds of flights due to Hurricane Dorian
2 p.m. update: Dorian is about 65 miles away from Grand Bahama Island which is still expected to experience winds and storm surge through the evening. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Bryan, Chatham, Camden, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties, said Channel 2 meteorologists who predicted that Dorian would not be gaining strength with the wind shear and dry air coming from the west.
11 a.m. EDT Sept. 3: Dangerous winds and storm surge continue on Grand Bahama Island with Hurricane Dorian 45 miles north of Freeport with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph. The hurricane is 105 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida. Storm surge watches and warnings have been issued for the Carolinas.
Hurricane Dorian began moving northwestward after stalling for hours over Grand Bahama Island, according to the National Hurricane Center’s advisory at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The storm is about 40 miles northeast of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, and about 110 miles east-northeast of West Palm Beach, Florida.
"The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late today through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday," the advisory said.
Gov. Brian Kemp ordered mandatory evacuations from the Georgia coast to begin on Monday at noon in six counties: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh.
Several watches and warnings have been issued along the southeast coast in Georgia and Florida ahead of the storm.
“If you decide not to evacuate, I want to be clear, you will be on your own if first responders cannot reach you,” said Kemp on Monday to AJC reporters on the coast reporting on evacuation efforts. “Please don’t take this risk if you’re able to evacuate.”
Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, the Georgia Department of Transportation began assisting those evacuation efforts by making the eastbound lanes on I-16 westbound, so all traffic is moving away from the coast, said department spokeswoman Natalie Dale.
“When we have evacuations in our coastal counties, when a mandatory evacuation is called by the governor, we assist in getting those Georgians out of that coastal region safely and efficiently by contraflowing I-16, and that means we turn all lanes westbound on I-16 so no traffic can flow eastbound into that coastal region, and that helps us to get the bulk of that population moving out,” she said.
Dale said it is important for people to understand while I-16 is one of most used evacuation routes, it is only one of more than 20 routes marked in the region.
On Tuesday afternoon, traffic leaving the area was running at the speed limit, said transportation officials.
Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry urged the public to take advantage of lighter than usual traffic on I-16 Tuesday afternoon to leave the area. “If everyone waits until the last minute, it will slow the pace of evacuation and increase safety concerns,” he said in a press statement.
All four lanes of I-16 will continue flowing in the westbound direction until further notice.
Other agencies also continued to prepare for Dorian’s unpredictable path and to help evacuees find information and lodging.
>> ON THE COAST: In Brunswick hurricane evacuation proceeds with calm
Georgia Tourism created a Georgia travel information page, which includes information on how to get assistance from Visitor Information Centers, links to Georgia emergency resources, and information on hotels and lodging availability.
In addition, Airbnb has launched its Open Homes Program to help displaced residents and relief workers deployed to the Southeast region impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
The program, first activated on Aug. 28, recruits hosts who are willing to provide free housing to displaced residents, and disaster relief workers in the areas impacted. The new activation area includes most of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Alabama.
AJC staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.
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