Irma leaves downed trees, power lines and flooding in Savannah; worst yet to come

SAVANNAH - Hurricane Irma, now Tropical Storm Irma, has made a mess of this coastal Georgia town.

A tornado watch was in effect until 11 a.m. and Georgia Power reports power outages affecting thousands of customers. The Chatham County Emergency Management Agency warns the worst of it is coming: High tide happens at about 12:30 p.m.

Around town, smaller limbs are down and many traffic lights are out.

A palm tree in the middle of Forsyth Park is now horizontal.

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Out on Tybee Island, residents are without power and under assault by pounding rain and stiff winds.

“It’s blowing pretty hard, and rain squalls are heavy and blowing sideways,” said Joey Spalding, who bought a storm-damaged house on Tybee Island after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and extensively renovated it. He spent four days stuffing sandbags in an attempt to protect it from flooding, and decided to stay.

“I hope what we did works,” he said.

The tree came up by its roots. Photo: Jennifer Brett,

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More than 200,000 without power as Irma marches toward Atlanta 

Cheryl McDaniel also is among the residents who remained on Tybee Island despite a mandatary evacuation order that went into effect Friday morning. She lost power at 5:30 a.m.

“The trees were already leaning toward the house,” she said. “Water is already gathering in the yard.”

Here are some video clips she sent:

The full force of Hurricane Irma is expected later today, and the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency has warned residents that emergency personnel won’t be able to respond to calls when winds sustain 39 mph.

Customers who have lost power should be prepared to remain in the dark for a while.

“Once the storm leaves affected areas, Georgia Power's damage assessment teams will begin working in the affected areas. Repair crews will follow and start power restoration efforts soon after,” Georgia Power said in a statement. “Depending on the extent of the damage, restoration efforts could take upwards of several days if not weeks.”

A contingent of between 60 and 100 is staffing the Emergency Management headquarters round the clock through the storm.

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