Gov. Deal expands emergency declaration to 94 counties total

ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal is warning anyone who refuses to follow his mandatory evacuation order that they are on their own once Hurricane Irma hits.

Deal issued a mandatory evacuation order for all areas east of Interstate 95 and parts of Chatham County beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Deal also declared 94 counties under a state of emergency ahead of the massive storm, which is set to directly hit metro Atlanta.

A state of emergency now exists in the following counties: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Baldwin, Ben Hill, Berrien, Bibb, Bleckley, Brantley, Brooks, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Calhoun, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clay, Clinch, Coffee, Colquitt, Cook, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Grady, Harris, Houston, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Jones, Lamar, Lanier, Laurens, Lee, Liberty, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McIntosh, Meriwether, Miller, Mitchell, Monroe, Montgomery, Muscogee, Peach, Pierce, Pike, Pulaski, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Troup, Turner, Twiggs, Upson, Ware, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox, Wilkinson and Worth Counties.

Our team of 5 Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologists are tracking Irma as it moves closer to Georgia. We'll have the updated timing of the monster storm throughout the day on Channel 2 Action News.

Butts County and Griffin-Spalding County Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday due to the storm.

Deal asked every Georgian to be prepared as Irma gets closer.

“I would urge everyone be cautions. This is a dangerous hurricane,” Deal said during a news conference Friday morning.

The latest track shows it possibly reaching metro Atlanta as a still-dangerous storm.

Deal joined state leaders during a briefing on the state’s readiness.

Georgia Emergency Management director Homer Bryson told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot that the agency is watching the track, but warns that track could change at any moment.

“We look at that, we consider that, but at the same time, we recognize that this storm is three days away, so there are no guarantees where the path will be, so we have to err on the side of caution,” Bryson said.

The state will open up every single state park across Georgia for free, making room for at least 10,000 evacuees if needed.

The Georgia National Guard has activated 5,000 troops, placing them and their equipment around the state.

Mandatory evacuations from the coast begin Saturday at 8 a.m., along with contraflow traffic along Interstate 16, meaning all lanes of traffic will be open westbound only.

“We have 22 other hurricane evacuation routes besides the interstates, beside I-75, I-95 and I-16, and we would encourage people to see those routes that make sense to them,” Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner Russell McMurray said.

Deal tried to reassure all Georgians that the state is ready.

“We’re going to get through this. We are a resilient state, and we have been through similar things before,” Deal said.

Deal did have a stern warning for those people who ignore the mandatory evacuation order along the coast, saying those who stay are pretty much on their own once the storm hits.

President Trump approves emergency declaration

President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for Georgia Friday afternoon.

"The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.  This action will help alleviate the hardship and suffering that the emergency may inflict on the local population, and provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property, and ensure public health and safety," a new release said.


Authorities will also implement a contraflow for portions of Interstate 16 beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. A contraflow means the eastbound lanes will be closed and used for westbound traffic evacuating the coast.

GDOT said it is working with GEMA to prepare for the worst-case scenario. GDOT said it is expecting heavy traffic on I-75 as evacuees seek safety and also is getting ready for what roadways will look like after Irma passes.