Georgia to Floridians: Don’t drive home while Irma still blows

Georgia officials who rolled out the welcome mat for their Florida neighbors want them to stick around a while longer. 

There are signs that some people who fled the Sunshine State are trying to return already, even as Tropical Storm Irma continues to blow across north Georgia. 

Gov. Nathan Deal said it's still too soon to be on the roads. 

"It's not safe until everybody gives the all clear," Deal said Monday after speaking with the representatives from various agencies gathered in the Georgia Emergency Management Agency operations center. 

Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale said the agency has seen higher traffic on parts of southbound I-75 than is typical on a normal day – even with Irma blowing down trees and knocking out power over wide swaths of the region. 

Though GDOT doesn’t know for sure who all those drivers are, Dale said many of them appear to have Florida license plates. 

She urged Floridians to wait until at least Tuesday – and perhaps later – to try to return home. 

“We need for people to stay where they are until Georgia and Florida officials say it’s safe,” she said. “We just don’t want anyone to head back and get stuck.” 

Those who fail to heed that warning may find themselves in a pickle. Dale said many Florida gas stations along I-75 are out of gas. And the evacuees may be returning to areas that have no power. 

And, of course, there’s Irma, who’s still wreaking havoc. Dale said GDOT has crews out across the metro area removing trees that have fallen over state highways. 

“There is a danger of falling trees well into the night,” she said. 

The governor urged those who did venture out to yield to utility trucks headed to hard hit areas. He said state troopers and HERO units would be out to keep things moving safely. 

"It's still going to be a slow process," the governor said about recovery.

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