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Georgia, South Carolina plan evacuations as Irma nears

By Danielle Haynes
Georgia, South Carolina plan evacuations as Irma nears
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (C) discussion Hurricane Irma preparation plans for the state. Photo courtesy the South Carolina National Guard

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday ordered a mandatory evacuation for coastal areas and South Carolina's governor was considering doing the same as Hurricane Irma advanced toward the U.S. coast.

The Georgia order covers all areas east of Interstate 95 and other areas near the coast, including all of Chatham County. Residents there must leave the area by Saturday.

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Deal also expanded a state of emergency for 30 counties in the state's southeast and ordered up to 5,000 Georgia National Guard members to be on active duty.

The National Hurricane Center projects Hurricane Irma's eye will make landfall somewhere along the Georgia-South Carolina border Monday or Tuesday. Irma was classified a Category 5 storm as of Thursday afternoon in Caribbean, where it killed at least 13 people, but is expected to weaken to Category 4 or 3 by time it passes over Florida and reaches Georgia's coast.

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"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Irma," Deal said. "I encourage all Georgians in our coastal areas that could be impacted by this storm to evacuate the area as soon as possible."

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In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster has yet to issue mandatory evacuation orders, though he said Thursday that if residents can go and ahead and leave, they should.

"There's no law that prevents you from evacuating early," he said.

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The South Carolina Emergency Management Division said that if mandatory evacuation orders are issued, they will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, when state officials plan to start reversing the southeast lanes of Interstate 26. The state ordered the evacuation of patients in coastal hospitals.

McMaster declared a state of emergency Wednesday and on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump declared a federal emergency for the state. Trump's declaration allows federal funds to be used in hurricane preparation and for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

Also on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate approved a $15 billion disaster relief package for areas hit by Hurricane Harvey and under threat by Hurricane Irma.

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