Evacuations lifted for Georgia coast as Hurricane Dorian moves away

Coastal counties closed schools; residents evacuated on Monday

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks Monday at the Glynn County Emergency Operations Center as a sign language interpreter translates.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks Monday at the Glynn County Emergency Operations Center as a sign language interpreter translates.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Georgia residents who live east of Interstate 95 can return home Thursday. Gov. Brian Kemp has lifted the evacuation order he put in place Monday. He also announced Tuesday morning that the Sidney Lanier Bridge was inspected and has reopened Thursday morning as Hurricane Dorian has moved on to threaten the Carolinas.

Tropical storm and storm surge warnings and the hurricane watch that had been up along the Georgia coast were discontinued at 5 a.m. Thursday.

More than 540,000 people who live on the state's 100-mile coast, including everybody east of Interstate 95 in Camden, Glynn, Chatham, Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties, were ordered out. That included the cities of Brunswick and St. Marys and all the barrier islands.

Dark Entry Creek Bridge, on Georgia Highway 40 in St. Marys between the Shadowlawn subdivision and Winn-Dixie, also reopened Thursday morning. 

The states of emergency for Glynn and Camden counties have also been canceled.

Assessment teams were being deployed to determine the damage in Glynn County and will repair any problems as rapidly as possible. Please be aware of your surroundings. Residents were urged not to touch fallen power lines as they can be extremely dangerous.

Scroll down for county-by-county hurricane status

"Hurricane Dorian is headed for Georgia’s coastline," Kemp said. "The cone of the storm continues to encompass our coast. As you know, this trajectory has changed several times and it remains to be uncertain, so we are continuing to watch it very closely. However, we’ve got to take action now to mitigate harm and assure the safety of our citizens as well as the visitors we have coming."

The Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick shut down at 8 p.m. Tuesday due to expected tropical storm-force winds.

"To ensure an uninterrupted supply of petroleum products, emergency supplies, food, etc., I’ve also temporarily waived specific weight, height and length restrictions for vehicles traveling through Georgia for disaster response," Kemp said. "I’ve also suspended regulations that limit the hours of operation for commercial vehicle drivers. I believe that all of these measures will greatly assist with the ongoing storm prep and disaster response efforts."

Dorian marks the third time since 2016 that hurricane evacuations have been ordered for all of coastal Georgia. 

Before the evacuations ahead of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017, coastal residents had not been ordered to flee a storm since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. That hurricane ended up missing the state before making landfall in North Carolina.

As Kemp spoke in Brunswick on Monday, he was asked what he would tell people who are reluctant to leave this time. 

"This storm is bigger than any we’ve seen. We don’t know the path yet. The models are showing one thing, but it’s moved a lot in the last few days," Kemp said. "I would urge people to take our advice. If they don’t it may be hard for us to get to them if something bad happens. But we respect peoples’ decisions to do what they want with their home and their property."

News4Jax met other evacuating families at a gas station who were heeding the governor's advice.

"We rode out the last storm and several trees fell around us and it was nerve-racking," Todd Allen said. "We’re not going to do that again."

Another Glynn County family isn't sticking around for the potentially dangerous storm. The grandparents, parents, two kids, a dog and three cats loaded up in their RV and left town.

"I hope everybody gets out and makes it out safe," Travis Murphy said. "It’s going to be very busy, crazy traffic and have lots of water and stuff.

Murphy said they are headed to White Springs, planning to turn the crisis into a "hurrication."

"It’s going to be awesome," Murphy said of the RV they just got. "It’s the first time we get to use it. We will see how it goes. We’re going to a lake, so that’s going to be fun."

On Jekyll Island, News4Jax met Jerry and Carolyn Ezzell, who stayed during Hurricane Irma, but are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Dorian. 

“I really do hate to leave my house. We don’t know what we’ll find when we come back, but we’re leaving anyway," Carolyn Ezzell said. “Hopefully it will be far enough out, we won’t have any damage., we won’t have any storm surge just like we did with Irma."

But Wesley Dickey said he planned to ride out the storm in his home, just like he did during Irma,

"I’ve been water all my life. I’m a retired commercial shrimp fisherman, so I know the water. So I’m happy right here," he said. “It’s a lucky spot because it curves in on the coastline. It's further away from the Gulf Stream -- 70 miles from the Gulf Stream, which makes a difference.”

As he rides out the storm, he said he will be keeping an eye on his neighbors' homes while they're out of town.

Georgia’s State Park System is closely monitoring Hurricane Dorian and preparing to host those sheltering from the storm. Evacuees and their pets are welcome in Georgia’s State Parks, including horses at parks with equestrian facilities.

All cottages and campsites will allow pets during this time. Campsites and cottages are available at regular rates, and “dry camping” is free during this emergency event. Parking fees and pet fees will be waived for evacuees.

Evacuees should contact park offices directly for assistance. Evacuees are strongly encouraged to travel to northern Georgia State Parks since strong winds and heavy rain may affect southern parks.

As of Monday, the parks have approximately 4,500 evacuees staying in campsites, cabins, yurts and lodges. 

Nine state parks and historic sites along the coast are closed, while 55 remain open, providing the potential to house 16,600 people. For the latest storm notifications, visit GaStateParks.org/alerts. Park locations can be found at the following link: GaStateParks.org/map.

Power outages

As the outer bands arrive, we wanted to give you an update on Georgia Power’s preparations for Dorian.     

  • GPC Storm Center in Atlanta is open and constantly monitoring conditions. 
  • All GPC line personnel across the state reported to work on Tuesday packed for one week and are ready to roll into areas as soon as the storm is passed. 
  • Two large crews from Atlanta arrived Monday. One is assigned to the Brunswick Area and one to the Savannah Area and will help work any outages until it is no longer safe to work due to conditions.
  • Alabama Power and Mississippi Power crews are prepared to respond if needed.
  • Staging areas along the coast are prepared and ready to receive crews.
  • Leadership teams made up of managers and engineers from all over the state have been identified and are ready to move into the area if necessary.
  • Storerooms have been stocked with extra transformers, poles and wire.

We will provide you with additional information as it becomes available.

Customers can visit our website, www.georgiapower.com/storm, to sign up for Outage Alerts, report and check the status of outages, and access useful safety tips and information. Customers can also report and check the status of an outage 24 hours a day by contacting Georgia Power at 888-891-0938.

Please check often because the system gets more accurate as assessments are completed and we better understand the impact in the area.     

After the Storm Safety Tips

  • Watch for downed wires. Downed power lines may be hidden by debris or fallen trees. 
  • Never touch any downed wire or attempt to remove tree branches from power lines – it can kill. 
  • Don't step in standing water or saturated ground where downed lines may be present. The water could be electrified. 
  • Avoid chain link fences. They may be energized by a downed line out of sight and conduct electricity over great distances. 
  • Watch for Georgia Power crews working across the state. If driving, move over one lane for utility vehicles stopped on the side of the road -- it's the law in Georgia. Please don’t approach work areas or stop to talk to workers. This only delays the tasks at hand and could also put you in a dangerous situation.

Camden County  

Updated 1:48 p.m. Tuesday:

Sunday evening, Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) issued a mandatory evacuation order for all six coastal counties in Georgia effective at noon on Monday.  This mandatory evacuation order will impact all citizens residing east of Interstate 95, which is Zone A of Camden County. 

Residents should be aware that there are no approved shelters in Camden County due to the potential for flooding. All residents should use caution due to heavy congestion on our roadways as a result of other evacuations occurring in neighboring states.

When choosing an evacuation route, consider these points:

  • Keep a road map in your car. GPS units only work when you have a specific destination to which you are traveling. They may not work as well when you have no set destination. You may also want to conserve cell phone battery power.
  • Traveling north or south out of the county may lead to less traveled secondary roads.
  • Secondary roads that may be lesser known, may also be less traveled.
  • Listen to radio information about possible road closures due to congestion or flooding.

Schools in Camden County will be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The district plans to resume a regular schedule on Friday.

A curfew will be imposed beginning Tuesday at 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily, until further notice, for all areas of Camden County east of I-95 for the areas that are under a mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Dorian.

Increased law enforcement presence and enhanced enforcement will occur during the curfew. Individuals can expect to be checked if they are traveling in the mandatory evacuation area east of I-95. This curfew seeks to ensure the safety of the property of Camden County residents evacuating from Hurricane Dorian.

Please continue to monitor the progress of the hurricane through the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center. Regular updates will also be posted to the Camden County EMA social media pages and on the county website at www.camdencountyga.gov. Please sign up for CodeRED to receive emergency notifications or text “CamdenCodeRED” to 99411 to enroll.

Glynn County

Updated at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday:

Glynn County, the entire City of Brunswick, and Jekyll Island are experiencing the outer rain bands of Hurricane Dorian. The entire county is still under a Storm Surge Warning and a Tropical Storm Warning. The evacuated zone A is under a Hurricane Watch with a potential of hurricane-force winds on the barrier islands. At this time, the worst of the storm is yet to come. Shelter in a safe place in your home away from windows. Stay off the roads if possible.

The F. J. Torras Causeway WILL NOT close unless deemed dangerous or impassable to allow for public safety to respond for as long as possible.

The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water Sewer Commission has no plans to shut down water or sewer service. The status of service is dependent upon power in most cases. To see real time status of services, potential storm damage and weather reports go to the Glynn County EMA dashboard at: http://tinyurl.com/EMAdashboard.

Please stay off of the roads. If you must drive, remember, do not drive through water, and intersections with power outages should be treated as four-way stops.

If flooding or wind damage occurs remember, do not drive through deep water, that intersections with power outages should be treated as four-way stops, and to alert Georgia Power of any downed power lines by going to http://outagemap.georgiapower.com/external/default.html.

A curfew remains in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m for the evacuated Zone A of Glynn County and the entire City of Brunswick. The Jekyll Island Authority also has a curfew in effect. The Jekyll Island Causeway and the Sidney Lanier Bridge are the only roadways closed at this time.

Republic Services trash pickup continues to be suspended and will resume when conditions allow. 

For the most updated information, call the Glynn County customer service line at 912-554-7111. Use 911 only for emergencies. If you are not already registered to receive emergency alerts through the CodeRED system, please sign up at this address: https://glynncounty.org/671/CodeRED

There are several closures at this time. 

  • The Southeast Georgia Health System will remain open throughout the storm and the hospitals will continue to care for inpatients, including maternity patients. The Emergency Care Centers will also remain open. All outpatient services and elective surgeries scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, September 3-5, 2019 are cancelled and patients will be contacted to reschedule procedures. All Southeast Georgia Physician Associates practices, including the Immediate Care Centers, will be closed until Friday, Sept. 6. Patients will be contacted to reschedule appointments.
  • Glynn County, Brunswick, JWSC, and the Glynn County School system offices, including all courts are closed until Friday September 6, 2019. All meetings for these entities are cancelled that this time through Thursday.
  • Jekyll Island Authority offices and amenities are closed until further notice. 
  • The College of Coastal Georgia has cancelled classes, closed the dorms, and will suspend all non-essential operations through Friday, September 6, 2019. Visit www.ccga.edu for updates. 
  • The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) has evacuated the campus. 
  • The Coastal Pines Golden Isles Campus will be closed through Monday.
  • Sea Island will close at 12:00 p.m. until further notice.

We will continue to monitor conditions and updates will be available at www.glynncounty.org and on the Glynn County EMA Facebook daily. To stay informed on Jekyll Island-specific updates, visit https://www.jekyllisland.com/weather-alert/. We advise the public to use the latest forecast models from the National Weather Service Jacksonville to stay informed between updates.       

Ware County

Updated 11:23 a.m. Monday:

Due to Hurricane Dorian’s potential impact on portions of coastal Georgia, select Ware County Schools facilities will be in use as staging points or shelter for those under mandatory evacuation orders. All Ware County schools will be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The latest track and timeline suggests that we will begin feeling the effects of Hurricane Dorian late Wednesday into early Thursday morning. Winds are expected to gust up to 50 mph with sustained winds less than 39 mph and rain accumulations less than 1.5 inches. 

In any weather emergency, it is essential to rely on accurate, timely information. All official announcements will be made on the Ware County Schools website, via the Ware County Schools Facebook page, through the Thrillshare notification system, and directly to employees via email. 

We anticipate schools reopening on Friday, Sept. 6.

Ware County emergency management urged people to monitor its Facebook page for updates.

Brantley, Charlton counties

Updated 11:30 a.m. Monday:

These are not considered coastal counties but were included in the governor's state of emergency due to the risk of inland flooding and other impacts.

Officials with Charlton County have announced schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to the hurricane.

Brantley County schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Brantley County Schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 3rd and 4th) of this week. As of now, weather...

Posted by Brantley County School System on Monday, September 2, 2019

State of emergency

Last week, Kemp declared a state of emergency for coastal counties, including Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce and Wayne. The state of emergency will help state agencies to assist with storm preparation, response and recovery.

The state law prohibiting price gouging is also now in effect.

Health departments

Due to the potential for severe weather from Hurricane Dorian, health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties will be closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

The evacuation of residents on the Hurricane Registry in many of those counties -- and subsequent re-entry procedures after the storm has passed -- may precipitate extended health department closures. We will share that information as it becomes available.

Department of Labor offices

Several Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) offices will remain closed until further notice due to potential inclement weather from Hurricane Dorian.

Gov. Brian Kemp has issued a mandatory evacuation order for multiple Georgia counties that could be affected by the dangerous storm. Six centers closed, but the Waycross center reopened Thursday. 

The centers now closed are as follows: 

  • Brunswick 
  • Hinesville 
  • Kings Bay 
  • Savannah
  • Statesboro

Staff and GDOL customers will be updated as the situation changes. All other GDOL career centers will operate according to their normal schedules, pending weather conditions and notification of a change in status.  

Help available for disabled Georgians

As Hurricane Dorian churns in the Atlantic, Georgians who live along the coast are being asked to sign up for the state's hurricane registry if they believe they’ll need help.

The Health Department oversees the registry, which lists people who might need help relocating because of special medical needs or disabilities. The service helps those with physical, mental and intellectual disabilities, as well as those with unstable, terminal or contagious conditions.

But time is of the essence. In order to take advantage of these resources, people must sign up in advance. To register for the list, download a registration form on the Health Department’s website or Sign up over the phone by calling 1-833-243-7344.

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