Gov. Deal: “Virtually the entire state” to be impacted by Irma

Hurricane Irma weakened slightly as it scraped up the western coast of Florida on Sunday.

But officials in Georgia warned the storm remained dangerous with downed trees, flooding and power outages all likely.

"Virtually the entire state of Georgia is going to be impacted by this hurricane,” Deal said after touring the state’s emergency operations center Sunday night. “There are certainly things we cannot control."

The fierce storm was downgraded to a Category 2 soon after slamming into Marco Island Sunday afternoon.

The entire state of Georgia remained under a state of emergency as officials, residents and Florida evacuees braced for Irma’s arrival.

Some Florida residents who had fled to Georgia to escape Irma’s wrath now found themselves sitting in the hurricane’s path as its track shifted west.

Throughout the state there was anxiety.

South Georgia could be walloped by hurricane-force winds and flooding. Coastal Georgia readied for storm surges.  And a tropical storm warning was issued for metro Atlanta, the first one ever for the city which sits some 250 miles inland. Forecasters at Channel 2 Action News said Irma could bring between five and seven inches of rainfall, and high winds reaching more than 60 mph to the metro region.

Deal extended a state of emergency to all 159 counties. An emergency declaration had already been in place for 94 counties.

Deal also announced that the state government would be closed Monday and Tuesday for all employees except essential personnel. Many schools around the state were closed as well.

Deal said President Donald Trump called him early Sunday to offer assistance.

At City Hall, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed warned that Irma’s course has already shifted several times and could do so again.

“It presents a dangerous situation for anybody in or even near its path, and that includes metro Atlanta,” Reed said. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that this storm can’t hurt you.”

Irma first made landfall in the Florida Keys early Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm. It was a Category 3 storm when it made a second landfall on Marco Island late Sunday afternoon.

More than 2.3 million people were without power in Florida Sunday as Irma barreled through the state bringing threats of storm-surge flooding. Much of Florida is under a hurricane warning.

In Albany — where Irma is expected to arrive Monday — officials urged residents to decide whether they will evacuate or stay in the area by 5 p.m. today. Any residents who remain, are encouraged to stay in shelters.

Jenna Wirtz, a deputy in the county emergency management agency, said 5 p.m. is “a very strong recommendation,” though not an official curfew.

Credit: Rob O'Neal

Credit: Rob O'Neal

Irma is expected to arrive in metro Monday , bringing up to 7 inches of rain for parts of Georgia by Tuesday, Walls said. A  tropical storm watch for the metro Atlanta area was upgraged to a tropical storm warning early Sunday. Wind gusts could reach 60 mph Monday through Tuesday moring, according to Channel 2.

Early models showed the storm a taking a direct hit on Georgia’s coast, but Irma veered off that course and began a slow turn westward on a track that could take it straight into South Georgia and southwest of metro Atlanta. Irma will be weakening all the while but will still be strong enough to do some damage in Atlanta, forecasters said.

Ahead of the storm's arrival, metro Atlanta school systems and colleges and universities began announcing closings.

Meanwhile, 14 percent of gas stations in Georgia were out of fuel, about 11 percent in the metro area, by Sunday morning, saidPatrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.

The highest numbers were reported in 27 percent of stations are out of gas.

Even with Irma tracking much farther west than initially forecast, Savannah and Tybee, its low-lying barrier island neighbor, are preparing for damage, power outages and especially flooding.

-Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writers Ty Tagami reported from Columbus, Ben Brasch from Valdosta, Jennifer Brett from Savannah, Josh Sharpe from Albany and Meris Lutz from Atlanta

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