Georgia officials keep eye on how Dorian will affect Labor Day weekend

Gov. Brian Kemp not yet declaring a state of emergency

Georgians are keeping an eye on a serious storm that could affect the busy Labor Day weekend.

Gov. Brian Kemp has not yet declared a state of emergency but said state officials would be carefully watching developments of Hurricane Dorian.

“In these situations, it is incredibly difficult to forecast where the storm will go and how severe the effects may be. Over the next 24 hours, we hope to have a clearer picture of Dorian’s trajectory,” he said in a press conference Wednesday evening.

Kemp said the state was already considering the potential impacts of Dorian on fuel supplies and vulnerable populations, as well as how to handle evacuations from Florida and the Georgia coast to inland Georgia that could impact traffic across the Southeast. He advised travelers to keep a close eye on the weather during the long weekend ahead.

As Dorian strengthened from tropical storm to hurricane Wednesday heading toward the United States, Channel 2 Action News meteorologists said they expected the storm to draw energy from the warm waters after hitting the U.S. Virgin Islands and brushing past Puerto Rico.

Blue tarps still cover about 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico even two years after Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria ravaged the American island of 3.2 million people, according to The Associated Press.

Late this weekend or early next week, Dorian will near the Southeast coast. Channel 2 meteorologists say those on the coast from Florida to North Carolina need to watch the system closely, as the forecast will likely show the path shifting north in weather advisories over the next couple of days. Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency there Wednesday afternoon.

The impending storm has officials in coastal Georgia on high alert. “We are feeling different today than yesterday, but it is still too early to see what is going to happen,” said Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman on Wednesday. “We have had a lot of practice for this over the last two to three years.”

A man uses straps to tie down the roof of his home in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, as Hurricane Dorian approaches on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. It’s expected to hit the U.S. coast over Labor Day weekend. ERIKA P. RODRIGUEZ / THE NEW YORK TIMES

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The city is taking a number of precautionary steps ranging from installing backup pumps for the sewer stations in case of a power outage to making arrangements for staff to stay in an off-site location where they can continue operating the city. “We are mainly watching because it is unclear this early what kind of impact we are going to have here,” he said.

With abnormally high tide already predicted for Thursday, Tybee officials are carefully considering evacuation plans as U.S. 80, the only road to and from the island, tends to flood during high tide.

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No matter what happens, it won’t be a pretty Labor Day weekend on the Georgia coast, said Nick Morgan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. There will almost surely be rain and potentially dangerous rip currents.

He said he couldn’t advise people whether to go to the beach, but he did say: “It probably wouldn’t be pleasant.”

Morgan said the exact path will be unclear until forecasters can see if the storm was weakened by passing over mountainous areas including parts of the Dominican Republic.

Labor Day also means Dragon Con will bring an estimated 85,000 people to downtown Atlanta to enjoy the internationally recognized convention of everything sci-fi, fantasy, pop culture and gaming.

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Heather Kirksey said Wednesday that the agency isn’t worried about the storm ruining the weekend but will continue to monitor weather.

Dozens of Orange County residents fill sandbags at Blanchard Park in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. The sandbags are being offered in advance of Hurricane Dorian, which is forecast to likely hit Florida. 

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Hartsfield-Jackson spokeswoman Elise Durham said the airport is also monitoring the weather, “but as of now do not anticipate any impact to the airport.” She said the airport is coordinating with the National Weather Service out of Peachtree City and Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management Agency for updates.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency entered the Enhanced Monitoring Phase (OPCON 4) as Dorian approached the East Coast of the United States.

Officials at GEMA/HS said the agency is monitoring the storm, sending regular updates via social media and communicating with federal and state partners, along with local emergency managers to ensure they are ready to respond to all contingencies.

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As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dorian continues to strengthen and is likely to threaten the United States as a major hurricane in the next few days.