Other state agencies also stepped up their preparations from the storm. The state Department of Agriculture is working to coordinate pet-friendly shelters for evacuees, while the state insurance commissioner urged residents to get their records in order in case they have to flee.
The hurricane, a Category 5 storm with winds topping 185 miles an hour, is one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded. It walloped islands across the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday as it tracked toward Puerto Rico.
President Donald Trump declared a federal state of emergency in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida as the storm barreled in on the coast. Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated the state National Guard as forecasters projected Irma to pummel the state’s coast.
The storm tests Deal’s overhauled storm response strategy anew, and it is the most significant challenge yet for the new head of the state’s emergency management agency.
Deal tapped Homer Bryson, a former corrections commissioner, to lead the agency shortly after Hurricane Matthew killed four people and left tens of millions of damage in its wake after scraping the shoreline in October.
He replaced Jim Butterworth, who publicly announced he was leaving state government shortly after the storm. Documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed internal friction between Butterworth and one of the agency's top officials over the state's handling of the response.