Gov. Deal to evacuees: Don't go home until it's safe

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal warned people across Georgia Tuesday that recovery from Hurricane Irma’s fury is going to be a long, slow process.

The governor told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot that Irma is the kind of disaster Georgia hasn’t seen in years.

Neighbors in southeast Atlanta’s Grant Park woke up to find these massive old oaks toppled on top of three homes. That is just one small part of the massive damage seen all over the state.

“This is a different kind of natural disaster.  We have not had one like this in the state of Georgia for a very long time,” Deal said.

[SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Districts to remain closed Wednesday amid Irma clean up]

About two miles away from those damaged houses, Deal and other state officials met at the Capitol to talk about preliminary damage assessments.

The governor said we usually see only localized damage from hurricanes, tornadoes or ice storms. This is the first time he can remember seeing it everywhere.

“This is one where the entire state of Georgia has been affected by this hurricane/tropical storm,” Deal said.

So far, 3,000 National Guard troops have been deployed around the state.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry told Elliot his crews are working hard to open every state road to help emergency crews get to where they need to go.

“All interstates are passable and open at this time.

 Starting yesterday, we had over 1,100 incidents of road closures.

This morning, we are down to 179 closures across the state,” McMurry said.

Deal said he’s asked for and received federal assistance, with potentially more assistance to come.

Still, he said there's so much damage, cleanup will take a while.

“As a result of that, recovery is going to be a little more slow because so much greater territories that have to be covered before everything can be back to a normal environment,” Deal said.

Deal and other state leaders are cautioning people, especially Florida evacuees, not to head south on I-75.


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Tens of thousands of Florida evacuees came to Georgia to escape Hurricane Irma. Now, all of those people are trying to get back home, most heading down I-75 south of Macon.

Georgia Emergency Management Director Homer Bryson told Elliot that’s going to be tough because there aren’t many working gas stations on that stretch due to fuel shortages, power outages and water in fuel tanks.

“We want everyone to be aware that access to fuel will not be guaranteed if they choose to travel south,” Bryson said.

“We have seen more than triple the traffic volumes on I-75 south,” McMurry said.

[PHOTOS: Damage from Irma in Georgia]

McMurray said GDOT is tracking a lot of Florida residents trying to get back home, even before their own local governments say it’s OK to return.

“Please heed the advice of Florida: Do not come back to Florida until your local government tells you it’s safe to do so,” McMurry urged. “We’re asking you to stay home and stay out of the way so that between our crews and the power crews, we can get these roads cleared and opened very quickly."

Deal lifted the mandatory evacuation order for the Georgia coast on Tuesday, but he said the final decision for people to return to their homes there belongs to the local governments.

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