ATLANTA - Georgia's emergency management agency is preparing to go to its highest level of readiness and will activate its special operations center on Thursday morning as Hurricane Florence nears landfall.
The latest tracks for the storm show the massive hurricane could impact Georgia after making landfall.
When officials saw Florence could head much further south, the governor declared states of emergency.
“Let’s all pray that the consequences to Georgia are not as severe as they perhaps could be,” Gov. Nathan Deal told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot.
Minutes after spoke with the governor, Deal signed an executive order declaring states of emergency not just along the South Carolina border, but in all 159 Georgia counties, because no one is really sure where Florence will go.
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“It does appear from the preliminary reports that the hurricane is going to take a western, maybe southern approach as it comes across North Carolina and South Carolina, into Georgia,” Deal said.
The executive order does a number of things including suspending some federal regulations, so truck drivers can drive longer than they’re usually allowed, so there’s no interruption of the flow of emergency supplies into disaster areas.
It also puts state agencies on high alert and that’s where Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security comes in.
“We will continue to communicate with state, local and federal partners and assist them with any current or projected needs,” GEMAHSA said in a statement.
Deal said the state has made it through Irma, Matthew and a number of ice storms. He thinks Georgia will be ready for Florence.
“We’ve done a great job in our past, most recent hurricane experiences of being able to open up private and state facilities for housing of those who need a new place to live during the course of the consequences of a hurricane," Deal said.
The attorney general’s office also contacted Elliot on Thursday and said it's opening up its price gouging hotline so anyone believing gas stations, hotels or motels are charging hurricane prices can call.
Local EMCs Ready for the Storm
Nearly 200 workers from local utility companies are standing by, ready to help restore power after Hurricane Florence makes landfall.
Channel 2’s Craig Lucie met with crews from Jackson EMC in Gwinnett County on Wednesday. They are among 22 electric cooperatives in Georgia that have been on conference calls with EMCs in other states, like Alabama and Florida, to make sure they have all the resources to quickly make storm repairs.
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“We are always prepared,” Craig Roberts with Jackson EMC said.
Roberts is the district coordinator of engineering and operation for the Jackson EMC. He showed Lucie around their warehouse, where he spotted row after row filled with excess power lines to help replace downed lines. Lucie also spotted all the power poles stacked up and ready on their property.
“We want to make sure we have enough equipment, make sure we have enough people ready for it and we’re mentally prepared for what’s ahead. We make sure the trucks are well maintained,” Kevin Tompkins with the Jackson EMC.
Jackson EMC isn’t the only one either. We made this map showing all of the Georgia EMCs that will take care of any power outages and damage in our state first, before hitting the east coast.
“We are prepared to take any call that we get,” Tompkins said.
Tompkins is one of nearly 200 line foreman with storm experience ready to get to work.
“My first storm was Hugo. I’ve done a lot of this myself,” Tompkins told Lucie.
The EMCs said they will head out Saturday afternoon and Sunday after they assess what impacts Georgia will see from the storm.
If Georgia does not have many outages, they will head to the Carolinas and the surrounding areas.
Georgia National Guard Ready for Florence
The Georgia National Guard is rounding up its resources to get them ready to roll to the hurricane zone.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant went inside the Guard’s Joint Operations Center on Wednesday.
Inside, all eyes are sharply focused on Hurricane Florence as it churns in the Atlantic toward the Georgia and Carolina coasts.
“When it comes time to do something like this, there’s no hesitation,” said Col. Jeff Dickerson, with the Georgia Department of Defense.
Dickerson gave Diamant a rundown of the resources ready to deploy wherever they’re needed most.
“We’ve got route clearance packages. We’ve got field feeding teams. We’ve got distribution pod teams available from the Air Guard. Likewise from the Army we’ve got local law enforcement support from the MPs (military police) who might be deployed,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson told Diamant the resources also include aviation assets like medevac Black Hawk helicopters.
Diamant watched as crews did last-minute maintenance ahead of the impending critical missions.
“With these things you never know. ... (It) could be one minute you’re hoisting people off a rooftop and the next you’re asked to resupply and the next mission you’re moving masses of people from one area to the next just to get them out of harm’s way,” said Maj. Ernest Polk, logistics manager.
Georgia Guard leaders confirmed calls have already come in from their counterparts in North and South Carolina to check on our state’s ability to back them up if necessary.
“We’re always here to help one another,” Polk said.
Dozens of Apache helicopters from North Carolina’s Fort Bragg flew in Tuesday to keep them safe from the storm.
“The Georgia Department of Defense is very flexible, very nimble, and we’ll be ready for whatever is coming at us,” Dickerson said.
As Florence gets closer, it won't be long before the joint operations center will be staffed 24-7.
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