Savannah – The mayor of Savannah warned residents to remain vigilant and to look after one another as the potential for break-ins and other crime could rise as a mandatory evacuation order is lifted later today allowing people to return to Georgia’s coast.
“I want all neighborhoods, I want each neighbor to look after each neighbor,” Mayor Eddie DeLoach said at a Sunday morning news conference announcing the pending removal of an evacuation order imposed by Gov. Nathan Deal. The mandatory order was put in place before the arrival of Hurricane Matthew.
“Some people will be looking at opportunities here whenever we bring people back to possibly break in,” DeLoach said. “We’re going to have the police force out, we’re going to have National Guard out and we are going to do everything we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
On Saturday, a Georgia National Guard representative told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it would build its personnel to 300 service members who will serve in a support role to local police and other first responders.
Matthew slammed the Georgia coast causing at least four storm-related deaths and causing widespread damage. The mandatory order affected six coastal counties.
All six are expected to be opened today, with Chatham County’s order to be lifted at 5 p.m., said Chatham Commission Chairman Albert Scott. People who return will have to show identification or other documentation that they live in the area or have business there.
“For those who are planning to return, please drive safely, please be aware of the 10 o’clock curfew,” Scott said.
Scott urged residents not to return until Monday, as roads remain treacherous with many blocked by downed power lines and trees or flooding. Most of the county is without power and many intersections do not have functioning traffic signals.
“The best thing we can do is make sure the neighbors who are in the neighborhood watching after each other,” DeLoach said. “If you are there, continue to do that. If you [have just returned] make sure you look out for your neighbor also.”
The mayor also asked neighborhood associations to begin organizing clean up efforts to aid public works staffers.
“We can do this and get this going at a faster pace if we can get all the residents who are part of this community out getting their specific area cleaned up,” he said.
Officials warned residents not to wade into flood waters or approach downed power lines, which could be energized and lead to electrocution.