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North Ga. prepares for high winds, heavy rain from Hurricane Irma
Storm expected to weaken but could bring 50 mph winds to Hall County area
09082017 Irma 1
Hall County first responders receive a briefing from Georgia public safety officials on Friday ahead of Hurricane Irma's move into the state. Officials are expecting gusts of more than 50 mph in the northern reaches of the state based on the storm's current path of travel. Power outages caused by trees are likely as the storm hits North Georgia early Monday morning. - photo by Nick Bowman

Strong winds and heavy rain are headed for Hall County early next week as the remnants of Hurricane Irma are expected to stretch north through Georgia.

Sustained winds could be as strong as 40 mph when the storm passes over Hall on Monday, according to National Weather Service forecaster Lauren Merritt. That’s strong enough to pull down trees, potentially damaging property and power lines, especially because recent rain in the area has softened soil. (Click here for updated cancellations of area events).

The forecast calls for gusts stronger than 50 mph between 8 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday. While the worst of the storm will be over the county on Monday and early Tuesday, several days of heavy rain are expected.

However, hurricane trackers are constantly updating the projected path of the storm, and the intensity is likely to change based on Irma’s path through the Southeast. (Latest conditions on the storm)

Hall County will sit east of the eye of the storm, which is a worse position for the county and will mean stronger wind and rain than if Hurricane Irma was traveling up the coast.

Create a family emergency plan 

Your family may not be together when a storm approaches, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what to do in case of an emergency. Your plan should include:

  • Evacuation route information
  • A plan to shelter in place
  • Pre-identify a meeting place in case your family is separated
  • A written list of important phone numbers for family, neighbors, utility companies, medical care providers, insurance agent, veterinarian, etc.
  • Copies of insurance policies
  • A home inventory
  • Important documents, identification cards, credit cards, etc.
  • Health insurance identification cards.

Build a storm kit

Kits should include items you will need for at least 72 hours after a storm, such as:

  • Nonperishable foods and a can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Three-day supply of water per person
  • Clean clothing
  • Basic hygiene supplies
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Batteries
Source: Hall County Sheriff's Office

The National Weather Service is providing updated information as soon as it’s available, according to Merritt.

Georgia Power has a page on its website dedicated to the storm, and customers can track live outages, sign up for outage alerts through texts or email and check the status of an outage in their neighborhood. Updates can be found at georgiapower.com/storm. An outage line is also open at 888-891-0938.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said most of the problems for the electrical grid during a storm are caused by falling trees.

“Certainly the higher the winds the more chance you can have actual winds coming down and doing more damage, but it all depends,” Kraft said on Thursday.

If a power outage does hit Hall, turning off large appliances so they don’t automatically turn on once power is returned could help to more quickly end a blackout.

“If it’s been very hot or very cold, sometimes when we see whole neighborhoods out of power and then we make a repair and do the restoration, every air conditioner comes on at once or every heater comes on at once,” Kraft said, “and that can lead to secondary problems and another outage.”

Georgia Power is also warning people to always remain aware of the potential for downed power lines and the dangers they pose near standing water, metal fencing and when hidden under storm debris.

Jackson Electric Membership Corporation is also maintaining a storm warning page on its website. A Friday announcement from the company states linemen are standing by to respond to power outages and line damage caused during the storm.

Outages can be reported to Jackson EMC online or by calling 1-800-245-4044. The company also advises checking your indoor and outdoor breaker boxes before reporting an outage, as electrical surges could have simply tripped a fuse.

Local hotels began filling up with reservations about five days ago as people on the coast made plans to flee the hurricane.

The Best Western Plus in Oakwood is booked solid, and the Fairview Inn and Suites in Gainesville filled up about five days ago.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced Friday it was waiving all fees for people and pets to stay in state parks, whether in cabins or in camping areas. DNR Commissioner Mark Williams said on Friday that state parks can accommodate about 10,000 people during the storm.

“DNR will not turn anyone away,” Williams said during a Friday press conference.

Local colleges and schools are taking a wait-and-see approach about whether to hold classes Monday.

Brenau will make a decision by noon Sunday, according to spokesman David Morrison.

For those living on Lake Lanier, dock builder Tom Child is warning people to tie down or remove any furniture on their docks — no matter how large — and secure their dock before the storm. Dock damage starts occurring when winds hit 25 to 30 mph.

“Do not underestimate the power of the wind and water,” Child said in an announcement through his business, Marine Specialties, on Thursday. “If your dock is anchored by just cables, you should pull your boat dock in closer to shore as this will possibly help keep your dock from being pushed in, the cables getting slack, and then some real damage occurring.”

If your dock is anchored with poles and cables, Child still recommends pulling the dock into shallow water of less than 8 feet so that poles aren’t bent by wind.

The McEver Road side of Lake Lanier is particularly vulnerable to wind, according to Child. Neighborhoods like Point South and Point West should expect strong winds moving across the lake and into residential areas.

“It’s some of the worst water on the lake,” Child said. “You get more than a mile of open water coming at you.”

Marine Specialties is expecting a heavy workload after the storm clears the area.

On Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal expanded his declaration of a state of emergency to 94 counties in southern and western Georgia. The state's mandatory evacuation zone was announced on Thursday.

The state is maintaining an information page

http://irma.georgia.org/hurricane/

with traffic and lodging maps and other information for those relocating because of the storm.

The emergency declaration also sets price gouging restrictions in place. Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr said during Deal’s Friday press conference that the state is monitoring the price of hotel rooms, fuel, water and other goods in the counties covered by the declaration.

Merchants are restricted from charging more for protected goods after the emergency declaration than they did before, according to Carr.

Deal’s order mobilizes up to 5,000 members of the Georgia National Guard to respond to the storm damage. Mandatory evacuations have also been ordered in South Carolina as Hurricane Irma is expected to travel along the southern East Coast after it clears Florida.

Irma has weakened to a Category 4 as winds dropped to 150 mph, according to the Associated Press.

Severe weather contact info

School systems
Banks County, 706-677-2224 
Buford, 770-945-5035 
Commerce, 706-335-5500
Dawson County, 706-265-3246
Forsyth County, 770-887-2461
Gainesville, 770-536-5275
Habersham County, 706-754-2118
Hall County, 770-534-1080
Jackson County, 706-367 5151
Jefferson, 706-367 2880
Lumpkin County, 706-864-3611
Rabun County, 706-746-5376
Towns County, 706-896-2279
Union County, 706-745-2322
White County, 706-865-2315

Colleges and universities
Brenau University, 770-534-6299
Lanier Technical College, 770-531-6300
Piedmont College, 706-778-3000
Truett-McConnell College, 706-865-2134
University of North Georgia (all campuses), 706-864-1400
North Georgia Technical College, 706-754-7700 (Clarkesville), 706-439-6300 (Blairsville)

Law enforcement/fire
For emergencies, dial 911; for nonemergencies, call the following:
Hall County, 770-536-8812
Gainesville, police, 770-534-5252; fire, 707-534-3612

Power companies
Georgia Power, 888-660-5890, 706-864-3614 
Jackson EMC, in Gainesville, 770-536-2415; in Jefferson, 706-367-5281
Sawnee EMC, 770-887-2363
Amicalola EMC, 706-253-5200
Habersham EMC, 800-640-6812

Phone
AT&T: repair calls, 877-737-2478; customer service,. 800-288-2020; online, repair.att.com
Windstream, Blairsville, 706-745-6911, Cleveland, 706-865-2442; Commerce, 706-335-6640; Cornelia, 706-778-2500; Dahlonega, 706-867-3333; Dawsonville 706-216-2222; Hiawassee, 706-896-2500

Cable TV
Charter Communications, 770-438-2427, 800-955-7766
Comcast, 404-266-2278

Roads, highways
Georgia DOT, 511 for updated road conditions

Regional events