CEMA enters final stage of preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma


As of 8 a.m., the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) moved into the final stage of readiness ahead of Hurricane Irma, according to a news release.

This final stage means impacts to the area will come within 24 hours.

Officials ask residents to be mindful that Chatham County and surrounding coastal counties are under a Hurricane Watch.

"This means the possibility exists for tornadoes and tropical storm force winds for the affected areas. Expected winds for Chatham County are 30-40 mph sustained and 50 mph gusts. Furthermore, this includes storm surge of 4-6 feet above high tide. These are the same levels experienced during Hurricane Matthew," according to officials.

CEMA today will finalize mobilization of local assets to Critical Work Force Shelter and staging sites, suspend response operations and recalling all field personnel, send regular updates via social media, CEMA App, and CEMA Alert Distribution, and posting pertinent information on CEMA's website, and continue to conduct media briefings.

Evacuation procedures will continue due to the possible hazards associated with Hurricane Irma.

The Evacuation Assembly Area at the Savannah Civic Center opened again at 8 a.m. today.

Residents will be transported to a shelter and then brought back into Chatham County when conditions are safe. Areas of Chatham County in Zone A still remain under a mandatory evacuation. Zones B and C of Chatham County continue to be under a general evacuation order. Citizens who wish to evacuate may continue to do so.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will close the Talmadge Bridge beginning at noon today.

Those who have evacuated are encouraged to remain sheltered until the storm has passed and the area deemed safe for return. However, residents may enter and move around Chatham County. While emergency 911 service will still receive calls, citizens that enter or remain in Chatham County should be aware that once winds reach 39 miles per hour, emergency services such as police, fire, and ambulance may be unavailable.

Chatham County remains under a Storm Surge Warning.

Storm surge as a result of Irma will occur during high tide and may result in flooded roads. There is also an enhanced risk of flooding along the coast where drainage systems have the potential to fill with seawater.

The tide gauge at Fort Pulaski is forecasted to reach 13.55 feet at noon on Monday, Sept. 11.

If reached, this will be a new historic crest beating Hurricane Matthew’s 12.45 feet reached on Oct. 8, 2016. The greatest storm surge threat is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Drivers should avoid standing water; only six inches of water can sweep a vehicle from the roadway. Additionally, Chatham County is under a Flash Flood Watch from Sunday evening into late Monday due to the expected peak rainfall of 4 to 8 inches for southeast Georgia.

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