Bryan County Emergency Services has requested a voluntary evacuation beginning at 5 p.m. today, Chief Freddy Howell announced on a conference call this afternoon involving county commissioners, public safety officials, the cities of Richmond Hill and Pembroke and media.
Howell said the situation of Hurricane Matthew’s impact on Bryan County will be re-evaluated tomorrow and if a mandatory evacuation is needed it would go into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“If things stay like they are, a voluntary evacuation is all we’ll need for people who don’t feel safe,” he said. “If it gets worse, we’ll make it mandatory.”
A mandatory evacuation would mean people who do not leave would not have access to emergency services.
Howell said he and his staff participated in conference calls earlier today with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.
Hurricane Matthew is expected to reach Bryan County Friday afternoon or evening.
The path of Hurricane Matthew, now north of Cuba, shifted slightly to the west Tuesday and then slightly east overnight. According to the National Hurricane Center, the severity of any impacts on Bryan County and Coastal Georgia will depend on what the storm does between now and Friday.
The NHC predicts the storm to arrive here Friday and continuing into Saturday. Coastal flooding, heavy sustained winds and rainfall of up to 12 inches are expected. There is up to about a 10 percent chance that Bryan County will experience hurricane-force winds (74 mph or greater) during this time.
BCES will post updates on its Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/BryanCountyEmergencyServices/.
Howell said the NWS indicated the storm could slow and reduce in strength as it passes about 50 to 75 miles off the Bryan County coast, but that could also mean higher storm surges along the coast of up to eight feet. High tide on Saturday will be at 1:54 p.m., which would help reduce the impact of any surge earlier Saturday..
Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for Bryan County and 12 other counties in Georgia, but no evacuation orders are in place at this time. You can read the text of the governor’s executive order at http://www.bryancountynews.com/section/12/article/46386/. A state of emergency allows money to be spent on disaster preparation and relief if need be and gives the governor latitude in emergency response situations, such as travel restrictions, closing state offices and deploying the National Guard. A similar declaration was issued in September ahead of Hurricane Hermine.
For more information on disaster preparation, please see www.ready.ga.gov.