County leaders meet to prepare for Hurricane Irma

by | September 7, 2017 11:00 pm

Last Updated: September 8, 2017 at 10:17 am

As many in the county are probably already aware, earlier today, Governor Nathan Deal added 24 counties to his State of Emergency list due to oncoming Hurricane Irma. Emanuel County was among those added to the list. In response, county leaders met at Swainsboro Fire Department at 2 p.m. to prepare for the storm. The following is a summary of pertinent information discussed:

• Governor Deal’s declaration of emergency here at home marks the first of such an occurrence in Sheriff J. Tyson Stephens’s tenure, to his recollection.

• According to the latest model supplied to Emanuel County 911 by the National Weather Service, Irma will reach the Georgia/South Carolina coast sometime during the day Monday.

• Contraflow will begin on Interstate 16 on Saturday at 8 a.m. All eastbound lanes will be re-routed westward.

• County Administrator Guy Singletary addressed emergency funding and stressed to all in charge of paperwork for GEMA/FEMA fund applications to do so in a timely manner.

• Deana Patrick from the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) was on hand to address sheltering. When preparing for, during the wake of, and following natural disasters, the American Red Cross requests or designates given areas as shelter locations. At the current time, Emanuel County has not received instruction or designation to set up a shelter. Possible reasons for this include a lack of Red Cross staff availability here and our inclusion in the governor’s State of Emergency list. Nonetheless, those at the meetingdid address shelter set-up. Should any private organization choose to establish a shelter, the funding for it and the responsibility of its occupants will lie on the shelter operator; the Red Cross will not intervene or supply aid. These voluntary, or Samaritan, shelters will be operable at their own risk. Some churches have indicated an interest in establishing shelter. All volunteer shelter operations are asked to contact 911 at either of 237-3928 or 237-3169. Should evacuees search for shelter in Emanuel County, the Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce has compiled a GEMA- and FEMA-fed list of shelter areas across the state. This list can be found on the Chamber’s Facebook page.
• Emanuel County Fire Chief Mike Strobridge spoke briefly on the department’s readiness to respond. He feels comfortable moving forward. Search and rescue efforts, should they be necessary, will be handled by the his department. They will also supply other aid throughout the county as needed.

• Courtney Terwilliger, EMS director, issued a request to keep smaller but well-traveled roads (IE: Lambs Bridge, etc.) open for emergency traffic, as state highways will likely be highly impacted by evacuation traffic. Also, as Savannah hospitals are frequented when trauma needs to be redirected, he urges the community to be vigilant and careful as the impacts of Irma make their way to Emanuel County. Trauma centers in Macon and Augusta will see a huge influx of patients because of Savannah’s hospitals’ inability to help. Additionally, routes for emergency traffic here at home may be difficult for a variety of reasons, such as traffic, downed trees and powerlines, and so on. The hospital and nursing home, Terwilliger said, are prepared with back-up power. Private nursing homes here will be taken care of as well through their respective corporates, but Emanuel County EMS will be prepared to step up as well, should the need arise.

• Keith Ross and Seth Brewer asked that all assistance requests for their department be phoned in to 9-1-1. The propane tanks and generators in the county have been checked and prepared.

• The Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office was represented by Sheriff Stephens and Chief Deputy Rocky Davis. The sheriff indicated that extra manpower will be staffed to ensure safety as Irma makes its way here. (Swainsboro Police Department’s Randy Ellison and 911 Director Martha Culbreth indicated the same.) Davis and Terwilliger both advise that cell reception may be hindered due to the high traffic volume passing through the county, as well as the weather. Please plan accordingly.

• By extension of the hinderance of cell service, law enforcement and first responders throughout the county will rely heavily on radio communications instead. Terwilliger mentioned the need for a ham radio operator. Anyone knowledgeable able to assist should contact his department.

• Johnny Mills on behalf of OMI indicated that the city should have enough water in reserve for 1.5 days.

• Culbreth encouraged all in the county to sign up for Code Red. The direct link to do so ishttps://public.coderedweb.com/cne/en-US/BF00B04859F0.
• Superintendent Dr. Kevin Judy stated that Emanuel County Schools will make a determination about closing tomorrow, Sept. 8, at noon. Tentatively, the plan is to close Monday. All sporting events for Monday and Tuesday will most likely be canceled. For updates, visit Emanuel County Live or the Emanuel County Schools website. He also indicated that a 19-passenger bus and a special needs bus equipped with a lift has been stationed in Twin City.

• East Georgia State College and Southeastern Technical College were both present at the meeting. EGSC will be closed Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. STC will be closed Monday. Should these dates be revised, Emanuel County Live and those respective schools’ websites will provide updates.

A second meeting will be held tomorrow around 2 p.m. to revisit these plans after an updated Irma model has been received. This meeting will be open to county leaders. Updates, if any, will be posted shortly following the conclusion of said meeting.

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