Governor Nathan Deal is urging residents along the Georgia coast to evacuate and prepare for Hurricane Matthew, while Tybee Island officials announced Wednesday that all residents and visitors needed to leave the island as soon as possible.
The evacuation in Tybee Island went into effect Wednesday at 3 p.m. Hours later, Deal extended an existing state of emergency declaration to include 17 additional counties in the southeastern region of Georgia, bringing the total to 30 counties. He encouraged a voluntary evacuation for Bryan, Chatham, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden counties.
The initial state of emergency ordered Tuesday included: Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Wayne counties. The additional 17 counties included in the state of emergency are: Screven, Jenkins, Emanuel, Treutlen, Candler, Toombs, Tattnall, Jeff Davis, Appling, Coffee, Bacon, Pierce, Ware, Atkinson, Clinch, Burke and Echols.
Under Deal’s orders, the emergency declaration began Wednesday and will last for seven days. However, that could change depending on Matthew’s path. Deal warned against price gouging, and issued an additional executive order waiving rules and regulations for commercial motor vehicles transporting emergency supplies.
Hurricane Matthew caused massive destruction when it hit Haiti, and is now taking aim at Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The storm was carrying maximum sustained winds around 120 mph (195 kph) on Wednesday morning. It has been predicted to hit Florida with “fierce winds, storm surges and heavy rain” late today, according to officials at the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Governors in Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina have all declared states of emergencies.
Wednesday, the judge overseeing the Ross Harris murder trial — a Cobb County father accused of intentionally leaving his toddler son in a hot car to die in 2014 — canceled court for Thursday afternoon and Friday due to the storm. The trial is being held in Brunswick in south Georgia.
The storm also has Georgia, South Carolina and SEC officials scrambling about contingency plans for Saturday night’s football game, according to the University of Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity.
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Talks have included playing the game as planned, changing the location of the game, or postponing the game until Sunday or Monday. As of late last night, no decision had been made, but according to UGA officials, a decision on when the game will be played should come down today (Thursday).
“We anticipate a decision about the game to be made on Thursday,” said the statement from UGA. “The safety of everyone affected by the storm and the minimization of the impact on emergency personnel are the most important factors in making the decision.”