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EMA: Risk of high winds still possible through Monday evening

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Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm and has entered Georgia. It appears to be following a northwest trajectory into Alabama and Tennessee, said Floyd County EMA Director Tim Herrington. The only thing that has changed from recent predictions is that Floyd County can expect less rainfall than had been previously predicted.
By Tuesday morning the majority of the storm will have started to move out and should be gone by tomorrow afternoon.

We can expect high winds, up to 50 mph and may see some flooding as a result, according to the National Weather Service.

As of 5 p.m. Floyd County has gotten .98 inches of rain according to the rain gauge at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport and we can expect about 3" of rain.

Floyd Medical Center urgent and primary care locations are closed until noon Tuesday. Harbin Clinic are closing at 2 p.m. today - they will make a decision about opening Tuesday early that morning.

Schools in Rome and Floyd County will be closed through Tuesday, but the county’s emergency management director said local fallout from Hurricane Irma is not likely to be too severe.

 “It looks like we’ll be getting high wind, periods of heavy rain and some flash flooding,” FCEMA Director Tim Herrington said late Monday. “There’s a possibility of some isolated, spin-off tornados but we have a low risk right now.”

Residents slated for jury duty today also are off the hook, although Superior Court Chief Judge Tami Colston said they need to call in this evening to see if the courts will reopen on Tuesday.

Irma, downgraded to a tropical storm, is expected to bring drizzling rain to Floyd County this morning, Herrington said, but won’t start to ramp up until sometime between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

“We’re expecting wind gusts of 30 to 55 mph and that’s probably going to take some trees down, but we’ve got a plan in place and we’ll just deal with it as it comes,” he said. “It looks like it may move through fairly quickly, though. By 5 p.m. Tuesday it should be clearing up.”

Rome City and Floyd County Schools announced jointly that all schools, as well as the central offices, would be closed today and Tuesday.

“Tropical storm-force winds that are forecast have a significant potential to cause downed power lines and trees, making transportation to and from school treacherous for our staff and students,” the announcement stated.

After-school activities and the Rome City Schools Board of Education meeting on Tuesday also are cancelled. 

The decisions came in response to Gov. Nathan Deal’s expansion of his emergency declaration to cover all 159 counties in Georgia. State government offices will be closed through Tuesday for all employees except emergency personnel.

That includes all Northwest Georgia Public Health facilities and the campuses of state schools Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Georgia Highlands College.

Berry College canceled classes for today and may extend the closing through Tuesday. Shorter University gave dorm students the option of leaving for the duration or sheltering in place.

Darlington Schools also will be closed today and Tuesday, and its college fair is canceled.

All Floyd County and Rome City administrative and nonessential offices also will be closed today, and the city commission meeting scheduled for tonight is canceled. County Clerk Erin Elrod said the two governments planned to decide about Tuesday later today.

Shelter from the storm

Herrington said there are no active shelters in the county but he is prepared to open one quickly if the need arises. The Red Cross of Northwest Georgia has set up two shelters, in Bartow and Whitfield counties. Any evacuees coming to Floyd County from Florida or Coastal Georgia would be sent to one of those.

“It makes sense because they’re right off I-75, and that’s the main corridor for evacuations,” Herrington said. “If we have a need locally, if we have local folks displaced, we can put them up here. I don’t want to send them to another county.”

The Bartow shelter is in The Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville. Red Cross shelter manager Gianna White said Sunday that Senior Pastor Jacob King and his congregation are pitching in to ensure everything runs smoothly.

As of Sunday afternoon, the church was housing 43 evacuees from Florida, including 15 children from ages 6 months to 18 years. White said they have room for up to 212 people.

“We provide shelter, we feed them and take care of any special needs they have,” she said. “We just took five kids with ear infections to a doctor. Everybody drove up and three days in a car with congestion took a toll.”

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, came by at lunchtime Sunday with his family and staff to deliver hot meals for the shelter guests and staff: 60 barbecue plates from Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse. He said he’s keeping close tabs on the forecast.

“It’s hour by hour with storms like these,” Loudermilk said.

Bartow County EMA Director Paul Cuprowski also checked in. He said county responders prepared Friday for evacuees, “and also in case we become part of the situation,” but they’ll meet again today to determine if they need to tweak their plans.

“All the departments are on standby; everybody from road crews to fire to purchasing,” Cuprowski said. “We’re in great shape right now.”

Floyd County’s animal shelter, PAWS, has been fielding calls to house pets from areas that have been evacuated. However, adoption specialist Vicki Helms said she’s had to refer them to local kennels, veterinarians and the Bartow County animal shelter.

“We just don’t have the room,” Helms said. “We’re almost at capacity on dogs.”

Florida evacuees also are ending up at Floyd County’s Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. Senior lineman Ned Shope said Sunday a few pilots and their families flew up to house their planes at the facility, although not all could be accommodated.

“A doctor from Miami came up with 12 people this morning, but we didn’t have a hangar big enough for his plane so he took them to Baton Rouge,” Shope said.

All the planes at the airport Sunday had been pulled inside hangars. Shope said he expects them to weather the coming storm, if the forecast doesn’t change again.

“Everything looks good so far, but we’ll have to see what kind of winds we get in the next few days,” he said.

Ready for Irma

Herrington said Rome and Floyd County responders, department heads and officials met several times Sunday to go over their plans and preparations, which included checking each of the radio communications towers to see if any needed to be shored up.

Public safety agencies have enough fuel on hand for the next four or five days and most gas stations around the county are stocked up as well.

“We don’t seem to be having any difficulties and our regular vendors assured me they expect to be able to deliver what we need,” Herrington said. “We’re in good shape.

Bread, milk and other staples flew off the shelves of local grocery stores Sunday but restocking deliveries also are expected to remain on a normal schedule.

Herrington said he also coordinated with Georgia Power to ensure they’ll have crews available locally for needed repairs.

The utility is preparing for widespread outages, a Sunday release from spokesman John Kraft noted, and has mobilized about 3,400 crews across the state. They’re drawing from Georgia Power, other Southern Co. operations and even outside utilities under a mutual aid agreement.

“Once the storm leaves affected areas, the company must wait until conditions are safe for damage assessment teams to enter the field and begin the restoration process, followed by repair crews,” the release states. “That could take several days, if not weeks, depending on the amount of damage and safe access to the area.”

Herrington said he’s also staying in contact with the Georgia EMA command center and friends in counties to the south.

“The storm will be approaching from the south, which is different for us. They normally come from the west,” he said. “They’ll be sending information up as it happens, so we’ll have an idea of what’s coming. As soon as it hits the state of Georgia, we’ll be tracking it.”

 He recommends local residents have the supplies they need for a couple of days, and to use the free Floyd County, Georgia, EMA app available for cellphones through Google Play and iTunes.

“We will be putting info out over the app for next couple of days,” he said. “Especially for folks who work here and don’t live here, it will give them important information about Floyd County conditions.”

Announcements also will go out on Facebook, Twitter and local media, Herrington said.

 Also, while flash floods remain a threat, the commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District said Sunday that all of the district’s reservoirs have available flood-storage capacity to handle the forecasted rainfall.

Col. James DeLapp said its reservoirs are well below the summer pool guide and the dams are in good shape. Lake Allatoona and Carters Lake upstream of Rome are among the eight Georgia facilities the Corps manages.

“Some of the dams will make small releases over the next three days, but those will be in accordance with routine operations,” DeLapp said.

Gov. Nathan Deal has expanded the emergency declaration to include all 159 counties in Georgia. State government offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday for all employees except emergency personnel.

All Floyd County and City of Rome Administrative, Judicial, and non-essential offices will be closed on Monday. The Floyd County Courthouse will be closed Monday. Jurors do not have to report to jury duty on Monday and need to call in Monday evening to see if they need to report on Tuesday.

Rome City and Floyd County schools issued a joint announcement Sunday that classes are canceled for Monday and Tuesday:

In response to Gov. Deal's declaration that all of Georgia is now under a state of emergency, Rome City Schools and Floyd County Schools have made the decision to close all schools to students and staff, as well as both central offices, on Monday, September 11 and Tuesday, September 12 in anticipation of severe weather in our area stemming from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Tropical storm force winds that are forecast have a significant potential to cause downed power lines and trees, making transportation to and from school treacherous for our staff and students. All after school activities will also be cancelled for these two days.Rome City Board of Education’s meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, September 19.

Bartow County Schools are closed Monday and Tuesday.

All campuses of Georgia Northwestern Technical College will be closed Monday and Tuesday due to expected inclement weather, spokeswoman Amber Jordan announced Sunday afternoon.

All Georgia Highlands College campuses will be closed on Monday and Tuesday. Check for updates from the school.

Darlington Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday. The Darlington School College Fair has also been cancelled.

Berry College is closed Monday and will decide about Tuesday on Monday.

For the latest local forecast:

  • Click here for the National Weather Service.
  • Click here for The Weather Channel's interactive weather map.
  • Click here to see recent precipitation and temperatures at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.