TYBEE ISLAND — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in 13 coastal counties Tuesday as Hurricane Matthew moved northward through the Caribbean after slamming the island nation of Haiti with 145 mph winds.
A statement by Deal’s office said he was ordering the state emergency management and homeland security offices to work with local agencies to protect residents and minimize risks.
The state of emergency begins Wednesday and includes the port city of Savannah and Brunswick to the south.
“The safety of Georgians is our first priority, and we urge residents in these areas to remain calm but vigilant as they prepare for potential impact,” Deal said.
Although the storm’s exact track isn’t yet known, the storm could get “dangerously close” to the Georgia coast within 72 hours, the statement said. The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch for the east coast of Florida that could be extended northward into Georgia.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman told WTOC-TV that emergency management officials told local leaders the storm’s projected path had shifted over the last 24 hours and could still move again. But the message is clear that coastal Georgia needs to keep a close watch on the storm, he said.
Officials are having regular conference calls about the hurricane, and Georgia’s state emergency management agency said workers at its operations center are preparing for the storm.
The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center has Matthew near the Georgia-South Carolina border by early Saturday.