MACON, Ga. -- As Central Georgia watches Hurricane Irma approach, the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency activated its Emergency Operations Center.
On Sunday, they’re in the final preparation stages ahead of the storm and monitoring the impact Irma could have locally.
“Yesterday we were in a tropical storm watch, this morning we were placed in a tropical storm warning. So, high winds, 40 to 50 miles per hour, downed trees, power lines. That is my concern,” Macon-Bibb County EMA Director Spencer Hawkins said.
Inside the Emergency Operations Center several city, county and state-level agencies are working together, finalizing plans to carry out an efficient response once the storm passes.
“They’re ready and prepped so as soon as the storm clears, we are going to clear those major thoroughfares first,” Hawkins said. “Access to hospitals, fire stations – so we can institute life-saving rescue measures if necessary.”
Macon and nearby cities and counties are continuing to see a steady stream of evacuees from Florida and around Georgia seeking safety away from the hurricane’s eye and the storm surge which is expected to take place along coast lines.
As of Saturday night, the American Red Cross was providing meals and operating shelters for nearly 1,200 evacuees.
In Macon, the Red Cross has now opened a fifth shelter as evacuees continue to travel to the area.
“They know they’re facing a situation they just can’t control,” said Colin Williams with the American Red Cross. “So, I applaud the people that come to these shelters for two days now. Because they’ve listened to the warnings to evacuate. They’ve come here seeking shelter away from the coast line which is the best things for them and their families.”
According to Hawkins, in addition to 600 people finding shelter in Red Cross Shelters in the Macon area, 5,000 nearby hotel rooms are also filled to capacity.
Specialist Kerry Hatcher with the Georgia State Defense Force is one of the individuals working in the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Operations Center.
Hatcher said the Georgia State Defense Force is assisting with filing request for services to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, while also helping to operate the center’s phones, assisting with logistics ahead of the storm and transporting personnel and supplies.
With the storm threatening Macon Hatcher mentioned everyone planning for Irma is ready for its aftermath.
“As always preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We are all hoping it will turn a little south and a little west and nothing will happen here. But unfortunately, according to the National Weather Service we are on the dirty side of the storm.”
A side which in addition to heavy rain, could produce strong winds and the potential for tornadoes according to the National Weather Service.
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