Gov. Brian Kemp has lifted the mandatory evacuation for the counties along the Georgia costs as Hurricane Dorian pushed away from the state Thursday morning.
Earlier this week Kemp ordered evacuations for residents east of I-95 in six coastal counties, then traveled to Brunswick and Savannah to urge them to leave. It was the third hurricane-related evacuation of coastal Georgia since 2016.
In addition to lifting the evacuation order Thursday morning, the state transportation department cleared St. Simons Island’s F.J. Torras causeway, Jekyll Island’s Downing Musgrove causeway and the Tybee Island causeway for travel.
Dorian grew into a Category 3 hurricane overnight as it drew power from warm Gulf Stream water and had weakened a bit to a Category 2 by lunchtime Thursday. The Georgia coast was spared a direct hit, and instead, was lashed by weaker, tropical-storm-force winds farther from the storm’s center.
Here’s the latest:
1:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 5:
SAVANNAH – Hurricane Dorian caused minor damage here, no serious injuries and no fatalities, though Georgia coastal authorities said they were still assessing the storm’s aftermath.
“We have not received any reports of any injuries or any fatalities from this storm,” Dennis Jones, Chatham County’s emergency management director, told reporters at the police headquarters here. “Very minor damage throughout our community. The biggest thing is the power outages.”
About 5,000 area residents were still without power as of 1 p.m. Thursday, down from more than 15,000 this morning.
Savannah’s Talmadge Bridge has been reopened to traffic. Savannah and the Town of Thunderbolt have canceled their curfews. The hurricane caused 65 mph gusts and three and a half-foot storm surges on Tybee Island, Jones said.
“We will thank the Lord for what we have been through and how we have come out of this,” Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach said, “and I hope we move forward along with everybody else in the community.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, called the region “lucky.”
“Thank goodness we were spared,” he said.
“And we are grateful for that. And we remember those who were impacted.”
- AJC staff writer Jeremy Redmon
12:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 5:
Around lunchtime Thursday, Dorian churned off the coast of South Carolina about 45 miles east of Charleston with winds reaching 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In Georgia, residents from the coast were heading home after an evacuation order was lifted Thursday morning for those areas.
More than 2,000 people stayed at 13 Red Cross Evacuation Centers around the state Wednesday night, the organization reported.
Officials in Chatham County — which includes Savannah and Tybee Island — are expected to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. to discuss storm updates.
8 a.m. EDT Sept. 5:
The eye of the hurricane was about 70 miles south-southeast of Charleston, as it headed north-northeast at 8 mph.
It was expected to move near or over the North Carolina coast tonight or Friday, reaching New England Friday night.
Hurricane-force winds extended up to 60 miles from the center, with tropical-storm-force winds reaching up to 195 miles.
Officials were still surveying the damage, but there were no immediate reports of major flooding.
Power outages were mostly restricted to the Savannah area, where Georgia Power was reporting about 15,000 without service. About 300 were affected to the south, in the Brunswick area. A little inland, in the areas served by Georgia EMC, only about 40 were without power.
The threat of major flooding was over, but the National Hurricane Center was still forecasting some rain, about an inch or two through Friday.
5 a.m. EDT Sept. 5:
Evacuations have not yet been lifted for Georgia’s six coastal counties east of I-95, and 21 counties remain under a state of emergency Thursday morning.
While most of the watches and warnings for the Georgia coast have been cancelled, a storm surge warning and a hurricane warning remain in effect north of the Savannah River. Charleston will likely take a hit from hurricane-force winds Thursday morning, Monahan said. Much of the city is flooded.
Storm surge associated with Dorian is up to about 4 feet on the South Carolina coast, and wind speeds of 54 mph were recorded in Charleston.
Wind is gusting up to 34 mph in Savannah, where more than 10,000 remain without power Thursday morning. Had the storm shifted or stalled another 20 miles to the west, Savannah could have fared much worse, Monahan said.
Georgia Power is dispatching crews from operation centers across the state to help in Savannah.
“We wanted to make sure that we got them on the road early to be prepared and in place for when that storm passes through, so we can get the lights back on as quickly and safely as possible,” company spokesman Craig Bell said from the center in Jonesboro.
Bell anticipates more coastal Georgians will lose power throughout the morning as the storm lumbers north.
Hurricane Dorian is moving at 8 mph on Thursday morning and is predicted to pick up some speed as it continues toward Wilmington and North Carolina’s barrier islands on Friday.
“The Outer Banks are going to take a big hit from Dorian,” Monahan said. “It is weakening at that point, but still a Category 2 hurricane.”
The center of the storm is expected to move into New England on Friday night and clear the U.S. later Saturday, according to the current storm track predictions.
— Staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.
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