- Associated Press - Friday, October 7, 2016

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) - The Latest on Georgia’s preparations for Hurricane Matthew (all times local):

11:50 p.m.

Almost 140,000 customers are without power in Georgia, most of them clustered along the coast, where Hurricane Matthew threatens.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft has said he expects outages will continue to climb in the storm-struck counties of Chatham, Glynn, Camden and McIntosh.

He says utility company crewmembers are expected to head toward the storm-inflicted areas Saturday after the weather clears.


9:30 p.m.

More than a hundred thousand residents are without electricity in coastal Georgia as gusty winds continue to strengthen and rain becomes heavier with Hurricane Matthew approaches the region.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft says he expects outages will climb even more in the storm-struck counties of Chatham, Glynn, Camden and McIntosh. He says utility company crewmembers are expected to head toward the storm-inflicted areas Saturday after the weather clears.

The National Hurricane Center warned that hurricane conditions could be arriving overnight and continuing into Saturday. The warning included threats of life-threatening flooding in coastal areas.


7:45 p.m.

A man who stayed on Tybee Island to ride out Hurricane Matthew says “trees are bending over” and it’s “raining sideways” as the storm approaches the Georgia-Florida line.

Steve Todd said he and a friend ventured out in a truck after dark Friday to pick up a couple of buddies who had become frightened of rapidly worsening conditions on the island. He said they were all going back to his third-floor condominium to spend the night.

Local officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for Tybee Island on Wednesday, but some residents insisted on staying put. The hurricane’s center was expected to pass early Saturday.

Todd said he doesn’t regret his decision, “but I’m not going to lie. There’s a little bit of nervous tension right now.”


5:45 p.m.

Officials in Georgia’s coastal Glynn County say emergency services won’t resume until weather in the region improves.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, county emergency management officials say the area is being buffeted by tropical storm force winds, which are expected to increase into evening. The county and others on the state’s coastline began urging residents to leave the area ahead of Hurricane Matthew on Wednesday.

Officials have said it’s not safe for police, fire and other first responders to travel in those conditions.

Officials say residents still in the area should “shelter in place” until an all-clear is given.

The county is also urging residents who left the area to stay away until re-entry plans are announced.

The statement says it will take time to assess damage and make sure roads and bridges are safe for drivers. Officials say damage could include loss of power, issues with sewer and water systems and blocked roads.

The statement says county officials will give an update Saturday at noon.


5:30 p.m.

Local officials say it’s too late for Savannah-area residents to evacuate if they haven’t fled already as Hurricane Matthew approaches.

Al Scott, chairman of the Chatham County Commission, told a Friday afternoon news conference that people who stayed in the county - which includes Savannah and Tybee Island - need to take shelter as Matthew is forecast to pass the Georgia coast Friday evening and Saturday morning.

Heavy rain and sustained winds up to 40 mph were already being felt in the county before 5 p.m. Friday.

Scott estimated about 75 percent of the county’s total residents heeded evacuation orders. That would mean roughly 70,000 stayed to ride out the storm.

Savannah-Chatham County Police Chief Jack Lumpkin says officers will enforce a dusk-until-dawn curfew Friday.


5 p.m.

Utility company officials say power outages are increasing in coastal Georgia as winds grow stronger due to Hurricane Matthew.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft says there are about 26,000 outages in counties including Glynn, Chatham, Camden and McIntosh. He says there are 406 separate damage spots in those areas involving possible fuses blown, broken polls or downed power lines.

Kraft says he expects outages to climb to a higher number in the next several hours. He says Georgia Power crewmembers are expecting to head toward storm-inflicted areas Saturday after the weather clears.

Kraft says the utility company will be working the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.


4:35 p.m.

Christopher Currier, a resident of St. Marys, Georgia, tells The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday afternoon that the city on the Florida-Georgia line is experiencing strong winds and heavy rain.

The 57-year-old Currier spent the day doing laundry, anticipating power loss. He says he lost power around 3:15 p.m.

Currier says he has food both for himself and two cats, including dinner rolls to make “peanut butter and jelly sliders,” water and other supplies. He couldn’t buy bread Thursday or Friday because stores closed.

So far, Currier said, he has no doubts about staying in his one-story home located about two miles from the waterfront though the area was under a mandatory evacuation order. Currier said he had nowhere to go. But he knows the worst of Hurricane Matthew is coming later Friday evening. Currier said before losing power he watched national and local TV coverage of damage in Florida.

“Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s nowhere near the worst storm to come here,” Currier said. He’s lived in St. Marys for 37 years. “But from the sound of the forecasts, it would be the worst storm I’ve experienced.”


4:20 p.m.

Gov. Nathan Deal says Hurricane Matthew evacuees should not rush back to their homes in coastal Georgia after the storm passes.

Deal said Friday that roadways and bridges need to be reassessed to make sure they are safe for passage. The governor says he doesn’t want people to put their lives in jeopardy until after utility crews are able to inspect the area.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials say bridge inspectors will be deployed Saturday to areas impacted by the after the flooding recedes. Officials say debris needs to be removed and bridges needs to be inspected before motorists use those roads.

Emergency Management Agency director Jim Buttersworth says more than 9,000 people are being sheltered in 30 different shelters in the state. He says more than 13,000 beds are available at those shelters.

State Department of Public Health commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald says four hospitals and nine nursing homes have been evacuated in coastal Georgia. She says 1,032 patients were relocated including 18 critical care patients.


3:37 p.m.

Video clips from a south Georgia newspaper show waves crashing against the southern edge of St. Simons Island. The Brunswick News also posted a video of ocean water washing across the parking lot for visitors to St. Simons Lighthouse, a popular tourist attraction.

The island is located off the coast near the city of Brunswick and is connected to the main land by a causeway. County officials urged residents of St. Simons and other islands to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Matthew, warning that storm conditions may prevent first responders from reaching residents in need of help.

Traffic on St. Simons Island earlier Friday was minimal. All businesses were closed, and many had boarded up windows and doors.


2:50 p.m.

As rain has intensified in the coastal city of Brunswick, roads have gone quiet.

Nearly all businesses were closed by Friday afternoon, indicated by windows covered with plywood, shutters or simply turning out the lights. Gas stations across the area, including those close to a major exit from Interstate 95, also closed up shop after securely wrapping handles to gas pumps with sheets of clear plastic or red caution tape.

According to a map of road closures from Glynn County, water is collecting on roadways throughout the area. The map also showed that a bridge crossing the Brunswick River between the city of Brunswick and the access point to Jekyll Island has been closed.

Television stations for the region are based in Jacksonville, Florida, and coverage of that area has so far dominated continuous local broadcasts. Brunswick-based radio stations specializing in various genres of music have switched programming over to storm coverage.


2:45 p.m.

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Georgia with the anticipation of extensive damage to the state’s coastal area because of Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Nathan Deal said in a news conference Friday that he requested the federal designation the day before. Deal says he spoke with Obama by phone Thursday while the governor visited Savannah.

The White House said Obama signed the emergency declaration on Thursday.

The declaration will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief efforts and use federal aid to assist people dealing with the storm. It’s designated to 30 counties in coastal Georgia.

Obama also signed the emergency declaration for Florida and South Carolina.


1:55 p.m.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is returning most of Interstate 16 to two-way traffic.

A 125-mile stretch of I-16 between Savannah and Dublin had been turned into a one-way evacuation route since Thursday afternoon to handle motorists fleeing the path of Hurricane Matthew. The Georgia State Patrol was routing all traffic westbound across all four lanes.

Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jill Nagel said the reverse flow operations were to be removed at 12:30 p.m. Friday from Dublin to Statesboro to return 1-16 to its normal flow with traffic traveling both east and west.

Eastbound lanes from Statesboro to Savannah were to remain closed for everyone but emergency personnel.


1:15 p.m.

Officials in coastal several coastal counties announced curfews ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

In the state’s southernmost county, a curfew begins Friday at 10 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m. on Saturday. Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor says he’ll decide whether to extend the curfew on a day-to-day basis.

Proctor says he hopes a curfew will keep people indoors overnight and prevent injuries.

Glynn County, located just north of Camden, announced a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew on Thursday. Glynn County officials have said the curfew will be in place each night of the weekend, ending Monday at 5 a.m.

Savannah-Chatman County police also planned to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew Friday night.


1 p.m.

While most of his neighbors have cleared out, Calvin Ratterree is still serving up beer and liquor at his bar on Tybee Island to about a dozen diehards planning to ride out Hurricane Matthew.

Ratterree owns Nickie’s 1971 about a block away from Georgia’s largest public beach. And while Tybee Island’s 3,000 residents were ordered to evacuate Wednesday, some have stayed put.

Ratterree says he’s worried about the powerful storm that’s forecast to hug the Georgia coast. But he says a friend has a third-floor condo across the street that he and his customers can flee to if necessary.

Steve Todd was having a drink at Ratterree’s bar before lunch Friday. He said his wife and child evacuated, but he stayed to try to protect their home and belongings.


12:30 p.m.

Prison officials in Georgia announced that they had moved more than 1,500 inmates from facilities in coastal counties to other lockups farther inland as Hurricane Matthew approaches.

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson announced Friday that 1,286 inmates at Coastal State Prison and 257 offenders housed at Coastal Transitional Center had been moved from those Chatham County facilities by 7:30 a.m. Friday.

The transfer of prisoners came as a result of Gov. Nathan Deal’s mandatory evacuation order for anyone east of Interstate 95.

Bryson said offenders will be moved back to the coastal facilities once his staff has had a chance to assess any potential damage and has determined conditions are safe.


11:20 a.m.

President Barack Obama cautioned people against thinking Hurricane Matthew would be less dangerous as it moves north from Florida.

In a meeting Friday in the Oval Office with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Obama said Matthew was “still a really dangerous hurricane.” He said he was concerned about storm surge and that as the hurricane moves north, areas like Jacksonville and Georgia might be less prepared.

“If they tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of there and move to higher ground,” Obama said. “Because storm surge can move very quickly, and people can think that they’re out of the woods and then suddenly get hit, and not be in a positon in which they and their families are safe.”

He urged people not to resist evacuating “because we can always replace property, but we cannot replace lives.”

11:15 a.m.

Local officials on the Georgia coast warn that time is running out to flee Hurricane Matthew.

Dennis Jones, emergency management director for Chatham County, told a Savannah news conference Friday morning that people had just a few more hours before powerful winds start hitting. He said: “Once the wind starts blowing, we’re pulling all emergency services off the street.”

Savannah police will enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

All emergency responders left Tybee Island earlier Friday as increasingly heavy rains at high tide threatened to flood the only road to the mainland.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman (BELL-ter-man) was taking names of people believed to remain on the island and had police officers calling them. He said: “This is what happens when you don’t get hit by a hurricane for 100 years.”


10:45 a.m.

Robin and Greg Bontrager removed any loose items from their boat, including sails and canvas, and double-tied it to a dock in Brunswick in the pouring rain as Hurricane Matthew approached.

The couple lives on the 42-foot Hunter sailboat called “Always and Forever,” and for the last two years they’ve docked in Brunswick, Georgia from June through November.

Robin Bontrager was emotional as she her husband prepared to take their two dogs to a motel to ride out the storm. The boat was to remain at Dock 3, surrounded by several other boats that are full-time homes to fellow “cruisers.”

“No one ever wants to leave their home, whether it’s a forest fire, a tornado, a hurricane, whatever the natural disaster might be,” she said. “And we’re not sure what we’re going to come back to.”


10:20 a.m.

State transportation officials announced the closure of a bridge that spans the Savannah River and connects downtown Savannah to Hutchinson Island because of Hurricane Matthew.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said the Talmadge Memorial Bridge would close at noon Friday due to anticipated gale-force winds. They say the bridge will stay closed until the strong winds have let up.

Transportation officials said the strength of the wind could keep drivers from being able to control their vehicles.


9:45 a.m.

Jeff Dickey loaded a diesel-powered generator into his pickup truck Friday morning outside his waterfront home on Tybee Island, where soaking rain from Matthew’s outer bands was already falling.

Most of the island’s 3,000 residents had evacuated over the last two days. With Matthew still on track to hug the Georgia coast, Dickey wasn’t taking any chances.

“We kind of tried to wait to see if it will tilt more to the east,” away from land, Dickey said. “But it’s go time.”

Dickey, his mother and his two daughters were among several last-minute evacuees leaving Tybee Island early Friday.

Tybee city officials said all emergency responders were leaving the island by mid-morning, shortly before the morning high tide that - combined with the rain - threatened to flood the only road on or off the island.


9:30 a.m.

Georgia transportation officials are closing a bridge that is one of the main routes between the mainland and the barrier islands off Brunswick in anticipation of high winds from Hurricane Matthew.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said in a news release that the Sidney Lanier Bridge would close at 10 a.m. Friday and would remain closed at least until strong winds subside.

The state’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge, the Sidney Lanier Bridge is a primary route to the Golden Isles - including Jekyll Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Little St. Simons Island - from Interstate 95.

Transportation officials say high winds, particularly at the bridge’s elevation, would likely make it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles, so the bridge is being closed for the safety of the public.


7:40 a.m.

A coastal Georgia hospital has closed its emergency room and transferred patients elsewhere ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

Officials with Southeast Georgia Health System announced early Friday that its Brunswick campus has been evacuated, including about 180 patients who were sent to other facilities in Georgia and Florida.

The system’s statement says that patients’ family members or emergency contacts were notified of any transfers.

Officials said they acted due to a mandatory evacuation order issued for Glynn County and the rest of Georgia’s coast.

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