Gainesville and Hall County are likely to dodge the brunt of Hurricane Michael as it pushes north from the Florida Panhandle into Georgia over the next two to three days, according to the latest forecast from the National Weather Service in Atlanta.
While Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 92 Georgia counties on Tuesday, Oct. 9, Hall County was not included as the storm is expected to mostly pass to the south of the Northeast Georgia region.
One to two inches of rain is still possible between Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, with wind gusts maxing out at about 25 mph.
But local officials are confident that the annual Mule Camp Market, which kicks off Friday in Gainesville, is not expected to be impacted by the storm.
“We are certainly monitoring the hurricane and watching what it is doing,” said Gainesville Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky. “So much of what is needed is purely dependent on what path a storm like this takes.”
Rotalsky said his staff is still preparing, however, for the worst and making sure equipment is in order and staff is able to respond if and when needed.
Casey Ramsey, Hall County’s interim emergency management agency director, said the current forecast is a huge relief for the area and its residents as it now stands.
“We certainly don’t want to get it washed out or blown out,” he said of the weekend’s festivities.
Meanwhile, at least 120,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were ordered to clear out on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael rapidly picked up steam in the Gulf of Mexico and closed in with winds of 110 mph and a potential storm surge of 12 feet.
Coastal residents rushed to board up their homes and sandbag their properties against the fast-moving hurricane, which was expected to blow ashore around midday today.
Forecasters said Michael stretched 370 miles across, with hurricane-strength winds extending up to 35 miles from the center. The storm could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, triggering flash flooding in a corner of the country still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.