About a dozen people are trying to find comfort inside a coastal Georgia saloon less than a block away from shore as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
Light rain began to fall Thursday evening as 50-year-old Lori Crowe of Neptune Beach, Florida, tried to find a hotel but couldn't find anything. Crowe along with her three friends wound up at Seagle's Saloon as other patrons shared stories of past storms.
While holding her Yorkshire terrier named Brie, Crowe says she is "scared to death." Crowe admitted she has never experienced a hurricane in her life.
Former St. Mary's mayor Jerry Brandon says he doesn't blame anyone for being frightened of the impending dangerous storm. The 73-year-old Brandon owns Seagle's Saloon and historic Riverview Hotel next door.
Almost none of the homes on streets near the beach were boarded up on Thursday evening.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is opening emergency operation centers for people evacuating from areas expected to be impacted by Hurricane Matthew.
FEMA officials said Thursday that crews were deployed to emergency operation centers in Albany, Georgia, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The agency says more than 444,000 liters of water and 513,000 meals along with thousands of cots and blankets will be on site.
Jim Butterworth, director at the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, says he expects the storm to arrive in coastal Georgia late Friday and continue through Saturday night.
Georgia Gov. Nathan visited the Savannah after holding a news conference in Atlanta. He urged coastal residents to take the evacuation order seriously. But he also acknowledged the state couldn't force people to leave.
Savannah may be under a mandatory evacuation order, but some people are staying to ride out Hurricane Matthew.
Darcy O'Connor was boarding up her ground-floor windows and helping a neighbor move potted plants Thursday as she prepared to hunker down in her downtown rowhouse. The restaurant owner even had lasagna in her fridge to bake before the storm arrives.
O'Connor said she wanted to keep her restaurant open, but nobody came Thursday as officials urged residents to evacuate. She said most of her neighbors were sticking around, and those who left just saw an excuse for a long weekend getaway.
O'Connor noted her home, built in 1883, has weathered hurricanes before. She said: "Half the windows, if you look, still have the original glass. So that tells you something."
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is urging locals who are looking to stay in coastal Georgia as the dangerous Hurricane Matthew marches toward the area to take heed to his mandatory evacuation order and leave.
Deal said Thursday several state agencies are collaborating to help locals evacuate. But the governor says people looking to stay put and endure the storm are endangering themselves.
Deal ordered mandatory evacuations along the entire Georgia coast as the storm approaches. He said everyone east of Interstate 95 should flee Georgia's six coastal counties — Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden.
Those counties have a combined population of more than 522,000 people.
Deal says the storm has the potential to inflict the loss of life, and wants people to avoid that dangerous measure.
Savannah residents who have no cars of their own are boarding buses to evacuate as Hurricane Matthew threatens the Georgia coast.
Roughly 40 people carrying small suitcases, backpacks and diaper bags stood waiting Thursday at the Savannah Civic Center as a long line of school buses idled in the parking lot waiting to take them to shelter inland.
Babett Biggins said she called her daughter Thursday morning and said they needed to leave. She waited to board a bus Tuesday with her two grown daughters, four grandchildren and other family members.
Kymethia Williams, who moved to Savannah just a few months ago, boarded a bus with her four children. She said she was told the bus would likely take them to Augusta 120 miles away, or somewhere further inland.
With a mandatory evacuation order in effect, residents of St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia packed up belongings and boarded up homes, unsure what will be left after Hurricane Matthew passes.
Some residents took their own vehicles, while others piled into buses made available by Glynn County emergency authorities. They were all headed inland to escape the dangerous storm.
Jennifer Banker's husband grew up on the island and she's lived there six years. She said they're taking all their valuables, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
"To have someone drive by this morning an go you have to leave and there's going to be a 20 foot wall of water in your house was pretty scary," she said.
Emergency officials in Augusta are preparing to shelter thousands of people from coastal Chatham County as they flee Hurricane Matthew.
The Augusta-Richmond County Emergency Management Agency said in a news release that it has an agreement with Chatham County to take up to 5,000 evacuees.
Buses were expected to leave Chatham County at noon Thursday and to arrive in Augusta between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. It wasn't immediately known how many evacuees would travel from Chatham County to Augusta.
Authorities were working with the Richmond County Schools System to prepare shelter facilities to house the Chatham evacuees.
Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered mandatory evacuations along the entire Georgia coast as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
Deal said Thursday that everyone east of Interstate 95 should flee Georgia's six coastal counties — Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden. Those counties have a combined population of more than 522,000 people.
The governor had asked coastal residents to evacuate on a voluntary basis Wednesday. He called for mandatory evacuations as the National Hurricane Center placed all 100 miles of coastal Georgia under a hurricane warning Thursday.
Officials say powerful winds and heavy rains from Matthew could begin to arrive in coastal Georgia late Thursday. The storm is forecast to pass Saturday.
The Georgia coast hasn't seen a hurricane evacuation since a near-miss with Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is turning Interstate 16 into a one-way evacuation route to handle motorists fleeing the path of Hurricane Matthew.
DOT spokeswoman Jill Nagel said a 125-mile stretch of I-16 between Savannah and Dublin would be affected, with the Georgia State Patrol routing all traffic westbound across all four lanes. Nagel says the change should happen later Thursday.
Nagel said it should help alleviate traffic from thousands of motorists fleeing inland not just from the Georgia coast but also from South Carolina and Florida.
Georgia hasn't turned I-16 into a one-way escape route since a near-miss with Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Officials on the Georgia coast are issuing new evacuation orders now that portions of the state are under a hurricane warning.
Threats from Hurricane Matthew caused commissioners in Glynn County to call for mandatory evacuations Thursday of all residents east of Interstate 95, including those in the city of Brunswick. Officials warned in a news release the county could see 60 mph winds, several feet of storm surge and 7 to 10 inches of rain.
The National Hurricane Center placed Glynn County and neighboring Camden County under a hurricane warning. Forecasts call for the storm to pass dangerously close to the Georgia coast late Friday and Saturday.
McIntosh County also ordered mandatory evacuations Thursday. County manager Patrick Zoucks said he expects the hurricane warning to be extended to his county.
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