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Hurricane Irma now aimed toward Northwest Georgia - Update: 6:50 p.m.

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After raking Caribbean, Irma gains strength, targets Florida

CORRECTS DAY - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 photo shows storm damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Irma scraped Cuba's northern coast Friday on a course toward Florida, leaving in its wake a ravaged string of Caribbean resort islands strewn with splintered lumber, corrugated metal and broken concrete. (Jalon Manson Shortte via AP)

Jalon Manson Shortte

Update: 6:50 p.m. Saturday. Shorter University resident students are being told to evacuate the campus by noon Sunday, according to the Shorter University Facebook page:

"There is a mandatory evacuation of the Rome campus for resident students by noon on Sunday, September 10. Students without an evacuation plan should come by the housing office in FSU 235 on Saturday between 12 noon and 4 p.m. It is mandatory that all resident students complete the Evacuation Residential Form before leaving campus. Students should complete the form online beginning today. A copy of the form also may be obtained from an RA or the housing office."

Update: 5:45 p.m. Saturday. Flash flood watch is in effect from Monday morning through Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service in Peachtree City has issued a flash flood watch for North and Central Georgia, from Monday morning through Tuesday morning.

Heavy rains from Irma will spread over north and central Georgia beginning Monday morning and continuing through Monday night.

Rainfall amounts of 3 to 7 inches are possible with isolated  higher amounts, especially in the higher terrain of the   mountains. These rainfall amounts will likely lead to flash   flooding.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The National Weather Service has provided a detailed updated forecast for the path of Hurricane Irma through Georgia, and Northwest Georgia still continues to be at risk for high winds and rain early in the week. Tim Herrington, director of Floyd County Emergency Management asks media to provide this information to readers. Scroll to the end of this report to view the pdf of the PowerPoint presentation.

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Projections for the path of Hurricane Irma now have the storm wandering through the Coosa Valley overnight Monday into Tuesday. As it relates to Irma, Romans might wish they were, in fact, off the ‘beaten path.’

City arborist Terry Paige has his fingers crossed, is carrying a rabbit’s foot and is hunting four-leaf clovers in the hope that whatever final path the storm takes, Rome ends up on the west side of the action.

Meteorologists say the northeast quadrant of a hurricane is typically the worst place to be because the storm is pushing the highest winds, rain and threat of tornados on that side of the eye.

Paige said Irma has the potential to be a repeat of Hurricane Opal, which dumped more than 10 inches of rain on Rome on Oct. 4-5, 1995.

Rome and Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Herrington said nowhere near that kind of rainfall is expected, at least not at this time. “All of that could change,” Herrington said after a noon briefing with National Weather Service personnel Friday. “We’re looking for three to five inches,” Herrington said.

“I worked all night (during Opal). I was on call the night Opal hit,” Paige remembers. “There were transformers blowing all over town, lighting the sky up.”

“A moderate 30 mile-per-hour wind usually doesn’t create a lot of damage but if you get 40 and above, some of the bad trees will start to come down. With sustained winds of 50 or better and we’re going to have a lot of damage,” Paige said. “A lot of our trees are not in the best of shape right now anyway after the drought stress from last summer.”

A report in the Rome News-Tribune on Oct. 5, 1995 indicates wind gusts peaked around 60 mph during Opal as it raced through Rome and Floyd County. The same edition indicated that water from Little Cedar Creek was about two feet deep across the highway near the square in downtown Cave Spring.

Herrington is on the same page with Paige, saying that wind damage and power outages are likely to be the biggest problem. “We could see some flash flooding in the usual areas,” Herrington said.

David Akins, who grew up in Rome as a youngster, has returned from The Villages, Florida, near Ocala. His daughter drove in from St. Petersburg and his son came from the Jacksonville area to ride out Irma in Rome. “This is our back-up plan and the back-up plan isn’t looking so good right now,” Akins said.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the utility has been monitoring the storm and the changing path has different implications for the power company. “We’re refining our plans, continuing the discussions we’ve had all week with the mutual assistance networks around the country and our sister companies within Southern Co.,” Kraft said.

Kraft explained people need to be very careful when inspecting damage related to trees being down. “You could have a live line down there among the debris,” Kraft said. He also urged people who plan to have portable power generators to make sure those generators are in well ventilated areas.

Lisa Smith, director of the Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, said most of the hoteliers in Rome are permitting pets to come with guests who have come to Rome to ride out the storm. One owner of multiple properties in Rome is even making plans to send his guests back to Florida with a case of water each.

Smith said people still coming to Rome need to check with the local hotels, not online services or corporate reservation systems, because the situation has been very fluid over the last 24 to 48 hours.

Rome City Schools officials will be monitoring weather forecasts before making a decision Sunday on whether school will be in session Monday, states a news release from the system.

On Friday, the school system announced that it is canceling all field trips and off-campus evening activities scheduled for Monday. A final decision on whether or not cancellations will occur for all on-campus and after-school activities is expected to come Sunday, the release continues. This includes a decision on the ASPIRE after-school program.

Floyd County Schools officials, as of Friday, had not made any cancellations for the school day or activities on Monday, according to a statement.

“We will continue to closely monitor and work with emergency management over the weekend to make a decision as soon as we possibly and practically can,” the statement reads.

Spokeswomen for St. Mary’s Catholic School and Unity Christian School said they are likely to follow what the city and county school systems do.

Any schedule changes for Darlington School will be released by 6 a.m. Monday, in accordance with their incle­ment weather policy, said Tannika Wester, a school spokeswoman.

RN-T Staff Writer Spencer Lahr contributed to this report.

HOW TO HELP HARVEY VICTIMS

Where: American Red Cross

What: Donations

How: redcross.org or 1-800-RED CROSS (733-2767) or texting the word Harvey to 90999 for a $10 donation.

Who: Garden Lakes Realty, Garden Lakes Elementary School and Garden Lakes Baptist Church

What: Children’s school supplies and new or gently used children’s books

Where: 2400 Garden Lakes Blvd.(realty office); 2903 Garden Lakes Blvd. (school); and 2200 Redmond Circle (church).

When: By Wednesday

Where: RomeGaCares, 1929 N. Broad St.

What: A very specific list of cleaning supplies that are immediately needed, and diapers (infant and adult) and canned meal supplement drinks. No clothes or furniture at this time.

Also: Volunteers for loading, sorting

When: Opening for donations at 8 am. - 6 p.m. open Monday-Saturday for three-four weeks from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

How: Volunteers should email Romegacares@gmail.com; for what is being accepted, see this story online for a link to the donations-needed list; for tax-deductible donations, go to the Floyd County Sheriff’s website at www.floydsheriff.com.

Where: Purple Mountain Natural Market, 308 E. Sixth Ave.

What: Cash and check donations for Houston Food Bank

When: During business hours

Where: Kroger

What: “Round up your bill” for donations to Harvey relief

When: During business hours

Where: Blood Assurance

What: Blood donations, especially O negative and O positive

How: Call 1-800-962-0628, go online to www.bloodassurance.org or text “BAGIVE” to 444999 to set up an appointment.

Who: Rotary Club of America partnering with Disaster Aid U.S.A., a Rotarian-run operation

What: Tax-deductible donations

How: Checks payable to Disaster Aid U.S.A. and noted “Hurricane Harvey” may be mailed to Disaster Aid U.S.A., 9817 Lanham Severn Road, Lanham, MD 20706 or go online to www.disasteraidUSA.org.

Who: Liberty Tax Service for Floyd County Sheriff’s Office

What: Toiletries, including shampoos, soaps, toothpaste and toothbrushes, baby diapers and baby wipes, pantry staples, such as cereals and non-perishable food items, and water.

How: Bring by one of the Liberty Tax Services offices at 1105 Turner McCall Blvd. on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon or 2102 Shorter Ave. on Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m.

Other local organizations are invited to join this list by emailing the information to romenewstribune@RN-T.com.