Evacuations ordered as Hurricane Matthew approaches Georgia coast

ATLANTA — Evacuations have been ordered for parts of Georgia’s coast as the state prepares for Hurricane Matthew.

The storm ripped through Haiti Tuesday as a Category 4 storm with 145 mile per hour winds yesterday, leaving villages flooded, roofs ripped from houses, and at least five people dead, according to ABC News.

Matthew is currently a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of about 115 mph and gusts as high as 140 mph, bearing down on the Bahamas throughout out the night and into Thursday.

Channel 2 Action News has reporters and photographers in Florida as the storm approaches. We'll have live reports on Channel 2 Action News This Morning.

After Matthew moves through there, it will intensify again and make its way up the coast of Florida by Thursday evening.

“This thing is going to move in as a Category 4 hurricane in and around Cape Canaveral, Merit Island, Cocoa Beach and up toward Daytona. That could be catastrophic for the general area,” said Severe Weather Team 2 Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns.

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Burns says there is some good news. As the storm approaches Georgia on Friday, most of the winds produced by the storm that will affect the inland will be off-shore winds, lessening the chance for a storm surge.

The storm is expected to weaken to a Category 3 storm at that point.

“This is still a very major hurricane, but the majority of the horrible weather is on the eastside of that storm,” Burns said. “We’re still going to see maybe hurricane-force winds along the coast, but this is subject to change over the next 24 hours.”

The storm is expected to be east of Charleston, South Carolina, by 8 p.m. Friday evening, and then Burns said the storm will veer to the east and head out to sea.

State, Federal agencies prepare for the storm

It’s all hands on deck inside the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency's state operations center Wednesday night as Hurricane Matthew churns toward the south Georgia coast.

"Some folks will be impacted by this storm and we have to accept that," GEMHSA Director Jim Butterworth said. "There is a lot of passion to make sure that the mission, not only of this agency, but of all the team members here of protecting life and property in that order is followed through on."

With 30 Georgia counties now under a state of emergency, Butterworth is leading efforts to shift critical resources toward coastal communities expected to need them most.

"That impact sort of remains unknown at this point, but we are continuing to press forward," Butterworth told Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant. “From everything I've seen, watching the news today, I think everybody's paying very close attention to this storm."

Retired Army Gen. Ken Keen, now with Emory University, commanded the joint task force in Haiti when the Caribbean island nation was hit by a powerful earthquake hit six years ago.

He's an expert in emergency preparedness before and after natural disasters.

"The key is they got to be able to adapt to any changes at the last minute, and I think that's where our leaders have to be very aware of what's going on," Keen told Diamant.

It's a challenge not lost on those inside the state operations center.

"Worry is not going to get us any help. We have to focus and work out our strategy; work our plan, the preparation piece. Those are the things that we're focusing on," Keen said.

Hurricane could impact UGA game

As Hurricane Matthew moves in on Florida and much of the east coast, dozens of sporting events have been canceled or postponed and countless contingency plans are being made.

As it stands right now, Georgia and South Carolina are still scheduled to play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Columbia.

The call to alter the game time or date will be up to South Carolina, in conjunction with the SEC.

Stay with Channel 2 Action News for continuing coverage of the hurricane’s path.