live video

Democratic gubernatorial debate underway

Tybee Island ordered to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew


Authorities along the Georgia coast ratcheted up preparations for Hurricane Matthew, a dangerous Category 3 storm described by Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brian Monahan as the strongest storm in the Atlantic in about 10 years.

The National Weather Service announced at 5 p.m. that the hurricane was about 400 miles southeast of West Palm Beach, Fla., north of Cuba and about 205 miles from the Bahamas. The hurricane watch had been extended northward from Fernandina Beach to the Savannah River. A tropical storm watch was issued for the Florida Gulf Coast from north of Chokoloskee to the Suwannee River.Forecasters predict the hurricane will be near Florida’s Atlantic coast by Thursday evening. By Friday night, the center of Matthew is expected to be less than 100 miles from the Georgia coast, Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said.

On Tybee Island, government buildings were boarded up and a mandatory evacuation went into effect at 3 p.m.

“We want to make sure that people are preparing for the worst,” Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman said. “We hope for the best but we have to be preparing for the possibility that this will be a direct hit.”

Shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, Amtrak announced the suspension of all of its service in the Southeast region.Passengers with travel plans can confirm their train's status, change their plans or review refund information on Amtrak.com, via smartphone apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL. Service alerts, passenger notices and other announcements are posted at Amtrak.com/alerts.Reports of heavy traffic heading north along I-95 in Florida began at mid-afternoon Wednesday.

The Florida Department of Transportation suspended tolls on State Road 528 because of the evacuations in Brevard County and halted construction work on interstates and evacuation route roadways as Hurricane Matthew nears.Several closures were announced ahead of Matthew's arrival in Georgia.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge announced it will be closed Thursday due to expected impact by Hurricane Matthew. "Although Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is not immediately on the coastline, we are expecting tropical storm force winds and approximately 5 inches of rain during the day on Friday based on the most recent weather predictions," the organization said in a news release. Georgia departments of driver services in Chatham, Effingham. Bulloch, Liberty, Glynn and Camden counties will be closed Friday and Saturday. The agencies may decide Thursday morning to close Thursday as well. Ports in Miami, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Cape Canaveral are closed to cruise ships until further notice.

Anyone expecting to visit government and public service buildings should check for potential closures before heading out.

Matthew had already swept across a remote area of Haiti, and government leaders said they weren’t close to fully gauging its impact, The Associated Press reported. At least 11 deaths had been blamed on the storm, five of them in Haiti.

With sustained winds of 125 mph, Matthew was bearing down on the southern Bahamas Wednesday amid forecasters’ predictions it would be near Florida’s Atlantic coast by Thursday evening, according to The AP. The hurricane was spreading high winds, pounding rain and a dangerous storm surge ahead of it on its approach to the Bahamas.

By Friday night, the center of Matthew is expected to be less than 100 miles from the Georgia coast, Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said.

Georgia has not had a direct hit from a hurricane in more than a century.

RELATED: See Hurricane Matthew’s projected path.

Though he urged people not to panic, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency Tuesday for 13 counties. Governors in three other states — Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina — also declared states of emergency and prepared evacuation plans. In Florida, mandatory evacuations were ordered in Brevard County, and voluntary evacuations were activated in St. Lucie County.

“If you’re able to go early,” Gov. Rick Scott during a Wednesday morning news conference, “leave now.” The mandatory evacuations were scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Deal has not issued an evacuation order but said the hurricane’s course could change at any time and force a change in that plan.

Georgia’s state of emergency includes Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Wayne counties. Coastal Georgia faces a 20 percent chance of getting hurricane force winds, a designation that applies to sustained winds of at least 74 mph, Nitz said.

Georgia Southern University in Statesboro canceled all Friday classes and events. Classes and events at Savannah Art of College and Design are canceled through Sunday.

Airports were operating as normal, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website, but Delta Air Lines warned that Matthew could affect flights going to and from Florida and parts of the Caribbean.

Delta is offering travelers change fee waivers for travel to and from Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, and the coastal United States.

Matthew could also affect the University of Georgia’s football game against the University of South Carolina on Saturday night. School officials are monitoring the weather conditions to decide if they’re going to have to move the game or cancel it.

"We are in communication with the National Weather Service, local weather authorities and the SEC regarding potential weather issues,” South Carolina school officials said on Twitter.

RELATED:

National Hurricane Center 

Georgia-S. Carolina location unchanged for now

Hurricane Matthew forces two-day delay in Ross Harris trial 

Bracing for Hurricane Matthew, Georgia declares state of emergency in 13 counties

Delta warns travelers that Hurricane Matthew may affect flights

Georgia Bulldogs game may be moved or called off by Hurricane Matthew

Other Hurricane Matthew coverage



Next Up in Local

South Carolina authorities searching for 3 escaped inmates
South Carolina authorities searching for 3 escaped inmates

South Carolina authorities are searching for three inmates -- two of whom are charged with murder -- who escaped from a jail, WRDW reported. The Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that the trio escaped from the county detention center Saturday night and that all are considered dangerous. The three inmates were identified...
2 killed when ejected from vehicle along I-75 in Cobb
2 killed when ejected from vehicle along I-75 in Cobb

Two people were killed when they were ejected from their vehicle after the driver lost control on I-75 North in Cobb County, police said. About 3:15 a.m. Sunday, a silver 2005 Jeep Wrangler was approaching Barrett Parkway, spokeswoman Sarah O’Hara said. The Jeep “was traveling above the speed limit, according to witnesses,” O&rsquo...
Police: 13-year-old in custody after 2 children shot in Central Florida city
Police: 13-year-old in custody after 2 children shot in Central Florida city

Two children were hospitalized after being shot in a Central Florida city Saturday evening and a 13-year-old boy was in custody, police said.  The incident occurred shortly before 6 p.m. in the Brevard County city of Palm Bay. Two juvenile victims, who police did not identify, were taken to nearby hospitals in serious but stable condition, police...
Bagel Palace, a metro Atlanta institution, closes its doors Sunday
Bagel Palace, a metro Atlanta institution, closes its doors Sunday

Bagel Palace, considered by many people to be an institution for Jewish deli food, announced Saturday night that it would be closing Sunday. The Toco Hills restaurant had been open for 25 years, according to a Facebook post. No one from the restaurant returned a phone call seeking comment about the decision to close, but the post said with...
North Carolina deputies find nearly $91 million of liquid meth on truck
North Carolina deputies find nearly $91 million of liquid meth on truck

Deputies in North Carolina on Saturday seized a tractor-trailer containing $90.8 million worth of liquid methamphetamine in the driver's side fuel tank, WTVD reported. Raul Topete Arreola, 49, and Aquileo Perez Pineda, 48, were charged with three counts of trafficking methamphetamine, according to the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies...
More Stories