SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) is monitoring the weather closely, but they have to make decisions which affect thousands.
“We could have potentially Category 3 Category 4 winds in Chatham County with 10-15 foot storm surge lasting over a period of 10-14 hours,” said CEMA Director Dennis Jones in a press conference this afternoon.
Those words left even a group of reporters silent.
CEMA advanced to OPCON 4 this morning, meaning it will enhance monitoring of the hurricane and any impacts it may make to the Chatham County area.
Irma’s path is still uncertain at this point, but Jones says Chatham County residents will see effects in our area, including storm surge or flooding.
“10-15 foot of storm surge is roughly a category 2 Hurricane,” Jones explains. “What we are looking at if we had that type of storm surge here, it would basically inundate the county so it looks like a horseshoe. It would come up the Savannah river, come up the Ogeechee river and also all the Island properties.”
CEMA expects Irma to come in at high tide which will lead to significant flooding throughout the area. That does not even account for the amount of rain connected to the storm.
But while Irma’s strength isn’t in question, when to evacuate still is.
“Somebody that wanted to leave, now that’s personal discretion,” Jones says. “It’s not something I would recommend right now it’s too early. But if you feel you need to do it then go ahead and do that. If you feel you need to do that for the safety of your family then go ahead and do that.”
CEMA and a command group made up of mayors and the County Chairman, city and county managers, the Chatham County Sheriff and Board of Education Director will make the decision for everyone else.
“Looking at Monday morning for impacts and back it up 36 hours from there,” says Jones. “And we also look at the necessary time needed to get specialty population out, that’s an addition 24 hours so we back it up from there.”
At that point, the three evacuation zones in Chatham County will find out what they should do.
If a general evacuation is ordered, it is recommended that residents follow suit.
Jones assures that the Civic Center will have buses available to transport residents.
Individuals would be allowed two bags of luggage and pets are allowed. Jones also encourages residents to bring their own pet food if evacuations are necessary.
Residents are encouraged to take proper steps for preparation, including organizing family communication plans and emergency kits.