Hurricane Irma: Gov. Deal expands State of Emergency ahead of Irma

ATLANTA — The latest track for Hurricane Irma has it getting closer to metro Atlanta.

The latest track of the storm shows it moving into Georgia on Monday afternoon, further west than previous tracks.The current track shows the storm entering Georgia as a possible Category 1 storm in southeast Georgia.

The current track puts north Georgia at a higher risk for gusty winds, heavy rain and the possibility for tornadoes.

Gov. Nathan Deal added 24 more counties to the State of Emergency on Thursday ahead of Hurricane Irma.

This comes after a recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. There are now a total of 30 counties included in this State of Emergency.

Severe Weather Team 2 is tracking the path of the massive storm on Channel 2 Action News.

The 30 counties under the State of Emergency are: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Coffee, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Jenkins, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne and Ware Counties.

Deal also issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas east of I-95 along Georgia's coastline beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security will implement a contraflow for portions of Interstate 16 beginning at 8 a.m. A contraflow means the eastbound lanes will be closed and used for westbound traffic evacuating the coast.

The executive order also authorized up to 5,000 Georgia National Guard members to be on state active duty to support Hurricane Irma response and recovery.

The State of Emergency prohibits price gouging for all goods and services related to the storm.


In a statement Deal said, “The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Irma,” said Deal. “I encourage all Georgians in our coastal areas that could be impacted by this storm to evacuate the area as soon as possible. Beginning Saturday, a mandatory evacuation order will take effect for Chatham County, all areas east of I-95 and some areas west of I-95 that could be impacted by this catastrophic hurricane and storm surge. GEMA/HS continues leading our preparedness efforts as we coordinate with federal, state and local officials to safely evacuate the coastal areas, provide public shelter and minimize the disruption of traffic. Finally, I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in Hurricane Irma’s path.”

Georgia Southern University announced it will close and classes will be canceled Sept. 8-12.

Savannah College of Art and Design said its campus will be closed beginning Sept. 8 for the duration of the storm.

On Wednesday, we spoke exclusively with FEMA Region 4 Response Division Director Gwen Keenan, based in metro Atlanta, who is coordinating the massive federal response to the storm.

"It’s a huge storm; it’s a very serious storm," she stressed.

Fifteen federal agencies represented in the response center are propositioning people in Florida, Georgia and throughout the southeast. FEMA’s staff is also mobilizing resources from urban search crews, to food and fuel supplies, to disaster medical teams.

Volunteers prepare to aid in Irma relief

Volunteers at Caring for Others were busy packing up boxes of brand new clothing and household items Wednesday night to help get the people of Texas back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey.

"We're just talking about three states over. We're going to do what we can to help them, because you never know. It could be you," volunteer Julian Dillard told Channel 2's Carl Willis.

But even as they seal up the boxes that will head out in a few days, they're watching Hurricane Irma threaten to create even more victims.

"It's wait and see as our trucks come in. We try to put everything together. It's just a wait and see as (to) where the needs are most right now," Dillard said.

Irma was pulverizing the Caribbean, where Atlanta resident Diana Ferguson was stranded when her airline canceled her flight.

She ventured out to take pictures of the aftermath Wednesday.

"Horrendous winds. Rain hitting the windows, tree limbs flying," Ferguson told Willis by phone.

She's feeling anxious because there's no guarantee that her replacement flight will take off.

"At this point we'll take anything moving to get back to the mainland. We will be on it. So, a reasonably high degree of anxiety," Ferguson told Willis.

Now, all eyes are on Irma -- a storm certain to create more need.

"Everything you do helps, because these people need their life back," Dillard said.

Georgia hotels busy as evacuees escape Irma

According to one popular travel website 98 percent of metro Atlanta hotels were booked from this weekend into next week.

Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Katie Walls discovered that most hotels in the metro are already sold out as many more Floridians are leaving out of caution.

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"We have a very busy Labor Day with DragonCon and everything going on. After that it usually slows down, very very slowly, we didn't expect that at all," said Gabriele Webster, the General Manager of Hotel Indigo in Midtown.

Typically this time of year, this hotel would just be 50-60 percent full but instead it's nearly sold out. Hotels like this across the Metro are in high demand, especially those that are pet friendly.

Airlines add more flights

Delta Airlines is adding more flights from south Florida as families are ready to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma.

The flights are coming from Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Key West. Those flights will land in Atlanta.

Both Delta and Southwest Airlines are also allowing passengers to change their travel plans if they had flights going to cities in the hurricane's path.