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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Savannah Is Hurricane |Ready, Gov. Deal Says

SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal visited Chatham County on Thursday to review city and county emergency services operations ahead of Hurricane Matthew's anticipated arrival here Friday, and said he was pleased by what he saw.

"Chatham County's county and city operations are fully staffed and ready to go, as emergency descends upon us," Deal said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Georgia hasn't been hit by a hurricane like Matthew in 118 years, and the governor declared a statewide emergency on Tuesday. The governor said his goal in doing so was to ensure there is no loss of life as the storm passes through the area and that property damage is minimal, "in that order."

Six coastal counties that stretch east from Interstate-95 to the Atlantic Ocean have been declared a mandatory evacuation area.

"For people who don't want to leave, they should take our advice very seriously. We're not going to go arrest someone because they refuse to leave. But we've made that label because it's very important. They should take opportunity to leave ahead of the storm," Deal said.

Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach said, "the Sheriff has given us 60 more police officers for Chatham County. And the Red Cross is doing a great job."

DeLoach said that the county will have busses running until noon on Friday. "If you miss it, you'll miss the boat. We need you get there before noon so First Responders also have time to get out and protect their families."

Deal said there are currently 45 National Guard members in Chatham County, primarily assisting in evacuation routes.

"The National Guard is on standby if the occasion arises. We don't want anyone to feel jeopardized. We'll call them out as need arises," the governor said, adding that the state could call on an additional 1,000 National Guard members should it be deemed necessary.

Chatham County reversed the lanes on the Highway-16 corridor to allow people to evacuate.

"I just saw this is working well," Deal said.

"A lot depends on the intensity of the hurricane when it actually hits our coast and the duration of it," Deal said. "It's been a slow moving hurricane; this is not Southern hospitality we're giving to Matthew."

He also revealed that he had just spoken with President Obama and been assured of federal help if it is needed.

"If we need the federal government, we can give them a call, and they will handle what we need on a federal level," Deal said.

The Georgia Port Authority shut down Thursday at 3 P.M. and plans to reopen again Monday morning.

Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Jim Butterworth, who also spoke at the news conference, said the agency is in close contact with FEMA at a local and regional level. "I spoke to FEMA's regional office five times yesterday and three times today. They understand our status and are ready to help."

Butterworth encouraged citizens to visit the agency's website where it's providing information for evacuees. The agency is also closely monitoring social media to "make sure people are safe."

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