ATLANTA -- Gov. Nathan Deal expanded the State of Emergency Wednesday, adding 17 additional counties to the original 13 counties, bringing the total to 30 counties under a State of Emergency ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Matthew.
The new counties under a state of emergency are Screven, Jenkins, Emanuel, Truetlen, Candler, Toombs, Jeff Davis, Appling, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Ware, Atkinson, Clinch, Burke and Echols.
“The National Hurricane Center predicts Hurricane Matthew will include excessive rainfall, strong winds and potential flooding. Because of this, I’m encouraging a voluntary evacuation for residents in Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden Counties. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMHSA) Director Jim Butterworth is coordinating with appropriate state and local officials to ensure the safety of residents in these six counties as well as those in the other affected areas. I urge Georgians in the affected areas to remain calm, be prepared and make informed, responsible decisions as we continue to monitor Hurricane Matthew’s path," Deal said.
Several barrier islands along the Georgia coast were urged to evacuate on Wednesday, following Tuesday's original declaration.
In Glynn County, officials called for the voluntary evacuation of St. Simons, Jekyll Island, Sea Island and Little St. Simons Island as well as neighboring low-lying areas.
Glynn County officials said there was currently no plan to close the main connecting causeway for St. Simons but warned that this could change and limit emergency services' access to the island in the process.
Further north in Chatham County, officials "strongly urge" residents of Tybee, Wilmington and Whitemarsh to evacuate as the major hurricane looms.
Officials with the Chatham Emergency Management agency warned those who decide to remain on the islands to prepare for power outages for three days or more and be well-supplied.
However, the city of Tybee Island later escalated the order to mandatory for all residents and visitors as of 3 p.m.
These decisions come as recent forecast tracks shift Matthew closer to Georgia and Florida.
Delta Air Lines says they plan to cancel about 120 flights to and from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Thursday.
Delta officials anticipate a potential restart of operations in Miami Thursday evening after the storm passes, and after an assessment of facilities at the airport there. Resumption of service in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is anticipated early Friday.
Company officials said they will make a determination regarding other airports to the north of West Palm Beach late Thursday morning. Affected airports would likely include Melbourne, Orlando, Jacksonville and others.
Nine hours on a bus isn’t an ideal way for 100 senior citizens to spend the day, but when they’re doing it to avoid the wrath of a major hurricane, it’s quite all right.
“I was frightened because I’ve never been through a hurricane, and I didn’t want to be through one,” said Adele Kueck, who was evacuated from Charleston. “You don’t know exactly what might happen with a hurricane.”
This group from Somerby Senior Living Community made the long trip from just outside Charleston, taking the governor’s order to evacuate the South Carolina coast ahead of Hurricane Matthew. Their sister property in Peachtree City is taking them in, until at least Sunday.
“And if there’s any danger to anybody, it’s better to be safe,” Kueck said.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like tomorrow or the next day in Charleston,” said Ruth Heavy.
Traffic snarled parts of Interstate 26 in South Carolina as residents evacuated. The mayor of Jacksonville is telling people on the northeast coast of Florida to move further inland.
The storm is currently ranked as a Category 3 - down from the Category 5 it was previously - however still has winds of up to 120 mph. And 11Alive's StormTrackers report that it is expected to strengthen as it continues its trek to the north.
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