5 p.m. Update, Sept. 29
The entire Georgia coastline is under a tropical storm warning and the South Carolina coast is under a hurricane warning as Ian strengthens again in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center said Ian is a hurricane again with sustained winds at 75 mph.
2:05 p.m. Update, Sept. 29
The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Ian is regaining strength as it moves out over the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and could be a Category 1 hurricane when it strikes the South Caroline coast on Friday.
In a tweet, the NHC said Ian could produce “life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds across portions of Florida, Georgia, and The Carolinas.”
11:20 a.m. Update, Sept. 29
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp today joined state and local emergency management officials, local leaders, and others in Savannah this morning to provide an update on Tropical Storm Ian preparations and the state’s planned response.
The State of Emergency issued by Governor Kemp on Tuesday went into effect this morning at 7 a.m. for all 159 of Georgia’s counties, making state resources available to local governments and entities within the hurricane impact area.
The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS) State Operations Center is now at a Level 1 full-scale activation and continues to monitor Ian’s progress. Teams from the relevant state agencies are also standing by to deploy to affected counties, when appropriate. The governor and emergency management officials are also coordinating with Georgia’s utility providers, who have been staging equipment, inspecting the right-of-way paths of power lines, and preparing to respond to any power outages homes and businesses may experience.
At this time, the Savannah Airport remains open and operational. The Savannah port terminal cleared any waiting vessels last night and operations will continue until 6 p.m. this evening. All vessels have also departed the Brunswick port terminal and pilot operations have ceased until the storm passes. The Georgia Ports Authority will reassess needs and an expected timeline for return to operations on Friday. The Georgia Department of Transportation closed the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick at 9 a.m. today, and Houlihan Bridge is closed to boat traffic only. Please visit www.dot.ga.gov for more information.
Kemp said evacuees from Florida are welcome in Georgia. He said there is still hotel/motel availability with sufficient capacity to meet demand. The tourism division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development has activated the Explore Georgia hurricane information webpage to help travelers and evacuees impacted by Tropical Storm Ian find hotel room openings and lodging availability, hours of operation for the state’s nine Visitor Information Centers, and links to emergency resources.
Kemp urges all Georgians to remain weather alert and to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families. Those directly impacted by the storm’s path are encouraged to consult GEMA/HS’ informational website.
9 a.m. Update, Sept. 29
Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it prepares to make a second landfall between Savannah and Charleston on Friday. The metro Atlanta area is likely to see only a little impact as the storm is tracking further east, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of Thursday, Ian was 250 miles south of Savannah with sustained winds at 65 mph. A hurricane and storm surge watch remains in effect for Chatham, Bryan, Jasper, and Liberty counties. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Effingham County. No evacuations have been ordered along the coast.
In Atlanta, a wind advisory is in effect and heavy downpours could reach parts of the metro by Friday night before dissipating on Saturday.
In Florida, more than 2 million are without power after the Category 4 storm slammed into the state with 150 mph winds causing widespread flooding and damage. The Miami Herald reports devastating damage to structures, roadways, and infrastructure. People were rescued from flooded homes, and one death has been reported. Some parts of Florida’s power grid may have to be totally rebuilt.
The state has set up a Florida Disaster Fund that you can donate to here or by texting “disaster” to 20222.
8 p.m. Update, Sept. 28:
Gov. Brian P. Kemp has issued a state of emergency order for all counties in Georgia in preparation for Hurricane Ian’s impact.
Ian made landfall around 3 p.m. at Cayo Costa, Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing “catastrophic” winds and storm surge. Winds were sustained at 150 mph.
The Miami Herald reported torrents of seawater rapidly filling streets in Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach. Naples also reported a record six feet of surge.
As the storm makes its way inland, there is the possibility of heavy rainfall and damaging winds in Georgia.
Ian’s current track takes the storm across Florida on Thursday before making an expected second landfall Friday between Georgia and South Carolina as a tropical storm.
The National Hurricane Center has predicted flooding on Georgia’s barrier islands, including St. Simon’s, Jekyll, and Tybee. Storm surge is also expected in Savannah, where the mayor warned residents to be prepared to flee rising waters. There is no evacuation order for Savannah.
Gov. Kemp has also not ordered any evacuation orders along the coast, but state officials are monitoring the situation.
The National Weather Service said the rest of Georgia will see 1-4 inches of rain and wind gusts of more than 30 mph by Saturday.
Georgia’s state of emergency will go into effect at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Sept.29, and will expire at midnight on Friday, Oct. 28. You can read the executive order here.
The state of emergency declaration follows the activation of the State Operations Center on Monday morning, ensuring all relevant state, local, and federal agencies are closely coordinating on storm preparations and response.
The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS) remains at a Level 2 elevated activation and continues to monitor Hurricane Ian’s progress. Governor Kemp, GEMA/HS officials, and other leaders are working closely with local officials on planned and implemented storm response. GEMA/HS also has teams standing by to deploy to affected counties, when appropriate.
Widespread rainfall of 2 to 4 inches is also possible statewide, with 4 to 6 inches or more forecast in Southeast Georgia. Flash flooding, power outages, and other dangerous situations are possible, especially in Southeast Georgia.
Those directly impacted by the storm’s path are encouraged to consult GEMA/HS’ informational website that includes tips on storm preparedness before, during, and after a hurricane.
Speedway opens to evacuees
Atlanta Motor Speedway announced Wednesday it is opening its campgrounds to evacuees seeking refuge from Hurricane Ian. Click here for a detailed map and visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com for more information.
DOT halting projects
The Georgia Department of Transportation said it was halting all projects requiring lane closures beginning today along Interstates 16, 75 and 95 south of Atlanta to help evacuation traffic flow more smoothly.
Additionally, the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes will remain in the northbound direction beginning today until the storm has moved through the area. Georgia’s Express Lanes system accepts the Florida SunPass and the North Carolina Quick Pass.
Welcome Centers and Rest Areas in South, Central and Coastal Georgia (Georgia DOT Districts 3, 4 and 5) will begin 24 hour operations on Wednesday.
As the storm makes its way through Georgia, crews will begin clean up efforts to ensure roads remain clear for emergency personnel use.
Atlanta Public Schools cancel events
Due to forecasted high winds and substantial rain from Hurricane Ian, Atlanta Public Schools is canceling or postponing all athletic events, after-school activities, and field trips scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 1.
The school day on Friday will proceed as normal, in person. District administrators will continue to participate in calls with the National Weather Service and continue to monitor the path of the storm and related weather conditions associated with this evolving situation. Normal operations are anticipated to resume on Monday.
This post is being regularly updated with the latest news on how Hurricane Ian is impacting Georgia. Bookmark and check back often.