ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal has expanded Georgia's state of emergency to 108 counties after changes to the path of Hurricane Michael.
"The track of the storm has apparently gravitated a little further north and northeast than we originally anticipated," Deal said at a Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency on Wednesday afternoon.
The original number of counties in the state of emergency was 92. The new expansion increased that number by 16. In addition, 15 counties have declared their own states of emergency.
"One of the concerns is this is coming in as a category 4 with some possibility it could rise as a category 5," Deal said. "We are hopeful that by the time it reaches the Georgia boundaries it will have died down somewhat."
Based on the latest forecast for Hurricane Michael, I have expanded yesterday’s emergency declaration to include an additional 16 counties: Butts, Clarke, Columbia, Elbert, Greene, Jasper, Lamar, Lincoln, McDuffie, Monroe, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Taliaferro & Wilkes. pic.twitter.com/zOROuRZvBo— Governor Nathan Deal (@GovernorDeal) October 10, 2018
"We obviously are concerned. It is unlike any storm that we have had in anybody's memory," said Governor Nathan Deal, R-Georgia. "This is a dangerous, dangerous hurricane and I urge everyone to do everything they can to help themselves, to help their neighbors."
At the recommendation of Georgia's Emergency Operations Command, the Governor added Butts, Clarke, Columbia, Elbert, Greene, Jasper, Lamar, Lincoln, McDuffie, Monroe, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Taliaferro and Wilkes to his emergency declaration Wednesday.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency is at full scale activation and the state has 2300 personnel on standby to respond to the storm--from Department of Transportation workers ready to clear roads to the Department of Natural Resources.
"We are prepared for search and rescue efforts in the event of flooding and have our swift water rescue boats staged for response," explained DNR Commissioner Mark Williams.
There are shelters open in Macon and Columbus for storm evacuees, as well as camping space at Atlanta Motor Speedway. State parks are waving fees for those fleeing the storm and as of Wednesday morning, there were already more than 1200 people staying in the parks. Anyone utilizing the parks, officials said, should be prepared to be self-sufficient.
Governor Deal said many across the state will likely lose power. The state has not issued any mandatory evacuation orders, but Deal did urge Georgians to prepare themselves for the storm.
"We trust the judgement of Georgians to know what's best for them and their circumstances," Governor Deal explained.
Wednesday morning, G-DOT deployed crews to south Georgia to clear highways and evacuation routes. So far, there are no mandatory evacuations declared.
Deal suggested Georgians take any available preparations for the "weather emergency," including having supplies to weather the storm and the aftermath.
As of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, the top sustained surface winds were nearly 150 mph, making this a major category 4 hurricane. The center of the storm was located about 50 miles south-southwest of Panama City, Fla. or about 55 miles southwest of Apalachicola, Fla. Michael was moving north at 14 mph.
The 92 original counties under the emergency declaration are: 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, Glascock, Glynn, Grady, Hancock, Houston, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Jones, Lanier, Laurens, Lee, Liberty, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McIntosh, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery, Muscogee, Peach, Pierce, Pulaski, Quitman, Randolph, Richmond, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Turner, Twiggs, Upson, Ware, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox, Wilkinson and Worth counties.
The new counties included are Butts, Clarke, Columbia, Elbert, Greene, Jasper, Lamar, Lincoln, McDuffie, Monroe, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Putnam, Taliaferro and Wilkes counties.