ATLANTA - Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is urging evacuated residents to remain where they are as crews begin to access the damage left behind from Hurricane Matthew.
“I understand people are anxious to return home, but I ask evacuees to wait until local authorities determine it is safe to do so,” Deal said at a news conference late Saturday morning.
Deal said there are no confirmed fatalities in Georgia so far, and damage assessments are underway but will take some time to complete.
"Those who have had to evacuate, please be patient a little longer," Deal said. "We want you to have a safe return.”
The process is estimated to take at least 24-36 hours, Deal said.
Gov. Deal, along with representatives from all five of the state’s major agencies, gave an update on response efforts following Mathew’s grind across the state's coastal region. About 1.4 million Georgians, who live in the six coastal counties, were evacuated.
Matthew made contact with Georgia as a Category 2 storm, causing serious flooding and record-breaking storm surges.
Deal said state agencies are mobilizing recovery plans and working with local authorities to assess damage, restore power, clear debris and make repairs in affected areas.
As of Saturday morning, there were more than 280,000 Georgia residents without power. Georgia Power deployed 5,000 crew members to assist with service restoration in the affected areas.
Gov. Deal ordered an additional 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops to assist state and local authorities with the emergency response to Hurricane Matthew early Saturday morning. This doubles the number of activated state national guard troops to 2,000, Deal announced via his official Twitter account.
“The Georgia coast hasn't seen a catastrophic disaster of this potential magnitude in 118 years. The state of Georgia is fully mobilized and with this federal declaration we are greatly intensifying our response efforts,” said Butterworth. “The time to prepare has nearly passed. Take action now to protect yourself and your family.”
Friday, the state called up 365 soldiers and airmen in the Georgia National Guard to help the response to the storm. Those men and women in uniform will serve in multiple capacities as needed including traffic control, security, and even cleanup efforts.
Ten state service cadets of the 48th Brigade from the Georgia Military College were among those being deployed. The college told FOX 5 News that Battalion Commander Alex Garvin is going in as his grandparents, Martha and Bobby Alvin, are evacuating from their home near Savannah. The Alvins found a hotel just 10 minutes away from GMC’s Milledgeville campus and will get to see their grandson briefly before he is set on active duty.
The U.S. Coast Guard has also been busy in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
“Our mission was two-fold,” said Cmdr. Mark Driver, HC-130 Hercules airplane pilot at Air Station Clearwater. “First we took two helicopter crews to Great Inagua, Bahamas, to provide support for search a rescue operations. The second part of the mission was delivering Coast Guard medical personnel and supplies to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so they can join with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton in post Hurricane Matthew storm relief operations.”
The Coast Guard said they are full mobilized and ready to assist along the East Coast.
Assisting in possible search and rescue is the Civil Air Patrol. The Georgia Wing, at the request of the Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division, has been placed on high alert. Ahead of the storm, they moved several air craft inland to ride out the storm. More than 50 Georgia pilots, aircrew members, and incident command staff are currently on standby and more may be called in if needed. There are currently 12 mission ready aircraft ready to assist in any necessary operations.
While many residents along the coast may not be able to get back home for a few days, a battalion of reinforcements in the way of first responders are starting to inch their way closer in that direction. About 50 first responders from metro Atlanta left Jonesboro Friday afternoon. The caravan included specially trained members of the Georgia Search and Rescue Teams from various jurisdictions. The caravan is expected to stage in Perry and wait to be dispatched from there.
Power outages are expected all along the coast and in response Georgia Power said they have a crew of nearly 5,000 to restore power and safely clear downed power lines. A spokesperson for the company said they have brought in help from out-of-state. The line crews are staged inland, but will be deployed to the coast once the storm has passed.
The Red Cross is out in full force. Nearly 250 Red Cross workers were deployed across the state. They have so far opened 23 shelters housing more than 3,500 people in Georgia. They will be working to provide the daily needs of those evacuated individuals for the next seven days.