GEMA: The time to prepare for Hurricane Michael is right now

The time for Georgians to prepare for Hurricane Michael is now – literally now.

As the storm, which skipped the long, tense run up of Hurricane Florence, is barreling toward the Florida Panhandle, where it's expected to hit as a Category 3 Wednesday afternoon and to arrive in Georgia Wednesday evening. With that in mind, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency flew into over-drive Tuesday morning, activating its special operations center in Atlanta.

Need to prepare for the storm? Follow the AJC’s coverage here

Find tips on preparation here

The center is in “Level 1” operations, its highest level, and plans to stay that way for the foreseeable future, said Catherine Howden, the agency’s chief of staff. The agency is working with myriad agencies, including the Georgia Department of Transportation, FEMA and various county and city governments, to coordinate a response.

They’re making sure evacuation routes are clear, which has so far involved GDOT cleaning interstate storm drains, and weighing the need for special shelters to house evacuees. They’re also enlisting workers to deploy after Michael hits to assist with any emergencies, restore power and clear debris.

Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 92 counties -- all of South Georgia and then some -- Tuesday morning.

TALLAHASSEE, FL -  Drivers line up for gasoline as Hurricane Michael bears down on the northern Gulf coast of Florida in Tallahassee, Florida. Michael was forecast to become a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph when it makes landfall in the Florida panhandle Wednesday.  (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Credit: Mark Wallheiser

icon to expand image

Credit: Mark Wallheiser

But Howden said her agency, commonly known as GEMA, has been watching Michael since it was but a blip on the radar, beginning to churn toward the U.S. days ago.

The run-up has been rapid and tense.

“It is a very fast moving storm, but this is something we have faced multiple times,” Howden said. “We’re working as a well-oiled machine with our partners.”