Decatur County keeping close eye on Hurricane Irma trajectory

Published 11:44 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Just more than a week after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas and parts of Louisiana with brutal storms and rising flood waters, another hurricane is making its way toward Florida with the potential to hit Bainbridge.

Irma is a Category 5 hurricane that is “potentially catastrophic”, according to the National Hurricane Center, generating winds of up to 185 mph. Irma is currently pounding its way through the Caribbean Islands as of Wednesday morning, badly damaging infrastructure and obliterating a number of small islands as it heads toward Puerto Rico.

The hurricane’s current trajectory shows it traveling along the northern coast of Cuba before possibly turning up into the U.S. mainland. Florida governor Rick Scott declared a statewide emergency earlier this week and has warned Irma could be more treacherous than Hurricane Andrew, the storm that devastated Florida 25 years ago.

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How much rain and where the heaviest rain will fall depends on Irma’s track, but as a risk county, Decatur County is preparing for whatever comes its way.

The county will definitely receive some rain and wind, according to Tonya Griffin, Decatur County emergency management deputy director.

“How much we don’t know,” Griffin said. “To what extent or what category it will be when it gets here, we don’t know. There is still so much uncertainty about the forecast track.”

Griffin advised that mobile home residents should start putting together a plan immediately for the possibility of extreme winds. Those residents should arrange to seek shelter at a safe location and keep a close eye on updates about Irma’s trajectory. Any items left outside such as trashcans, pool chairs and plants should also be protected and secured.

No shelters have been opened yet officially by Decatur County, and the call to open them won’t be made until later in the week. If there is need for a shelter, Griffin guaranteed Decatur County would open one. For churches interested in opening a shelter, Griffin recommended they call (229) 248-3869 to talk to her or Fire Chief Charlie McCann for assistance in the process.

Because Decatur County is a risk county, any shelters that are opened are intended for Decatur County residents only. GEMA will open shelters intended for Florida residents fleeing north farther up into the state, if the need arises.

The City of Bainbridge began pumping out the storm water ponds around the city Tuesday and is checking every storm drain to insure nothing is blocked.

“We don’t know what it’s going to do, but you have to be safer than sorry,” city manager Chris Hobby said. “It takes a little while to pump those storm (drains) down. On a hurricane when you do get plenty of notice, you hope for the best really, and get them down as low as you can.”

In case the storm does hit Bainbridge hard enough to damage the city’s water and sewage, Hobby recommended filling up old milk containers with tap water.