Hurricane Nate could bring heavy rain, gusts of 50 mph and sustained winds possibly between 30 and 40 mph to Gainesville after midday Sunday.
Nate is on track to make landfall over New Orleans after 7 p.m. Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane and cross into North Georgia around noon on Sunday as a tropical storm. The storm will hit the area less than a month after Tropical Storm Irma.
Forecast fast facts
Rain begins: Saturday night
Wind begins: Around noon Sunday
Possible gust speed as of Friday: 50 mph
Possible sustained wind speed: 30 to 40 mphResources:
Report power outages
Georgia Power: georgiapower.com/storm or report dangerous outages at 1-888-891-0938.
Jackson EMC: 800-245-4044 or at outage.jacksonemc.com.
Unlike Irma, isolated tornadoes could be possible during the weekend, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Sid King of the Peachtree City office.
“We’re starting to gain a bit more confidence on it right now on where it’s going to go, but there’s still quite a bit of variability since we’re still a few days out,” King said on Friday.
The Weather Service has issued a tropical storm watch for all of North Georgia.
The first bands of heavy rain will hit Gainesville late on Saturday and continue through Sunday. Between 2 and 6 inches of rain are expected between Saturday night and Monday morning (local forecast).
Strong winds will begin at noon and continue through the day and “rapidly die down” early Monday morning, the meteorologist said.
Power outages are likely depending on how Nate travels after making landfall. The storm’s track is constantly updated by the National Hurricane Center.
Over the Atlantic, Irma was a much stronger Category 5 hurricane, but the two storms will be similar over Hall County because Irma spent more time traveling over land than Nate will before reaching North Georgia.
“So we anticipate generally about equal strength of the tropical storm impact,” King said. “We’re thinking the same 50 mph wind gusts, maybe 30 to 40 mph sustained gusts. It looks generally about the same intensity.”
Irma destroyed 186 power poles in Jackson Electric Membership Corp.’s service area and knocked out power to most of Hall County and Gainesville. More than 110 transformers were replaced during the storm.
Hundreds of linemen were brought in from outside Georgia, including crews from Canada, and power wasn’t completely restored in the city of Gainesville, which is served by Georgia Power, until eight days after the storm hit.
Thousands of trees were knocked down and more than 600 structures in the county were damaged, according to Hall County Emergency Management Agency Director David Kimbrell.
Jackson EMC spokeswoman April Sorrow said on Friday that the power company activated its emergency response plan at 1 p.m. Friday, which means all employees begin their emergency roles. In addition to its 150 linemen, the utility has 250 crew members from six other states available to help if needed, according to a news release.
Linemen have been sent home to rest before the weekend, she said, and additional equipment and workers are being brought into the area.
Jackson EMC began preparing mid-week. It has 15 additional line crews, which can have anywhere from two to eight people.
Customers of Jackson EMC can report outages at 800-245-4044 or at outage.jacksonemc.com.
Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the company is prepared for strong winds and rain but “at this point, there is too much uncertainty to predict specific damage or outages.”
Preparing for the storm
Jackson EMC urges customers to prepare for the storm with these tips and resources:
- Protect electronics and appliances. Turn off air conditioners since power surges can overload them, unplug all electronics such as DVD players, televisions and computers.
- Secure any outdoor items that could be moved by high winds and cause damage. Move patio furniture inside where possible.
- Charge all necessary electronics, including cell phones and tablets, so you can stay connected even if the power is out. Know how to adjust the settings on mobile devices to maximize battery life.
- Report outages at 800-245-4044, outage.jacksonemc.com; follow on Twitter or Facebook.
The company plans to “refine our storm plan into the weekend,” he said. He was unable to say how many line crews were on the ground in Gainesville before the storm.
“Given the uncertainty of storm tracks, most crews remain in their home territories until we know where they are needed most,” he said.
Hall County School System Superintendent Will Schofield said the system is “hoping for a normal week and will be monitoring the weather throughout the weekend.” Gainesville City School System Superintendent Jeremy Williams said the city will “follow the same protocol we used with Irma” to assess any damage on school grounds.
Nate will be the eighth hurricane this season in the Atlantic, making it one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. The strongest storm has been Hurricane Maria, which destroyed much of Puerto Rico with 175 mph gusts.