BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on Georgia’s preparations for Hurricane Matthew (all times local):
President Barack Obama cautions people against thinking Hurricane Matthew would be less dangerous as it moves north from Florida.
In a meeting Friday in the Oval Office with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Obama says Matthew was “still a really dangerous hurricane.” He said he was concerned about storm surge and that as the hurricane moves north, areas like Jacksonville and Georgia might be less prepared.
“If they tell you to evacuate, you need to get out of there and move to higher ground,” Obama says. “Because storm surge can move very quickly, and people can think that they’re out of the woods and then suddenly get hit, and not be in a position in which they and their families are safe.”
He urged people not to resist evacuating “because we can always replace property, but we cannot replace lives.”
Local officials on the Georgia coast warn that time is running out to flee Hurricane Matthew.
Dennis Jones, emergency management director for Chatham County, told a Savannah news conference Friday morning that people had just a few more hours before powerful winds start hitting. He said: “Once the wind starts blowing, we’re pulling all emergency services off the street.”
Savannah police will enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
All emergency responders left Tybee Island earlier Friday as increasingly heavy rains at high tide threatened to flood the only road to the mainland.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman (BELL-ter-man) was taking names of people believed to remain on the island and had police officers calling them. He said: “This is what happens when you don’t get hit by a hurricane for 100 years.”
Robin and Greg Bontrager removed any loose items from their boat, including sails and canvas, and double-tied it to a dock in Brunswick in the pouring rain as Hurricane Matthew approached.
The couple lives on the 42-foot Hunter sailboat called “Always and Forever,” and for the last two years they’ve docked in Brunswick, Georgia from June through November.
Robin Bontrager was emotional as she her husband prepared to take their two dogs to a motel to ride out the storm. The boat was to remain at Dock 3, surrounded by several other boats that are full-time homes to fellow “cruisers.”
“No one ever wants to leave their home, whether it’s a forest fire, a tornado, a hurricane, whatever the natural disaster might be,” she said. “And we’re not sure what we’re going to come back to.”
State transportation officials announced the closure of a bridge that spans the Savannah River and connects downtown Savannah to Hutchinson Island because of Hurricane Matthew.
The Georgia Department of Transportation said the Talmadge Memorial Bridge would close at noon Friday due to anticipated gale-force winds. They say the bridge will stay closed until the strong winds have let up.
Transportation officials said the strength of the wind could keep drivers from being able to control their vehicles.
Jeff Dickey loaded a diesel-powered generator into his pickup truck Friday morning outside his waterfront home on Tybee Island, where soaking rain from Matthew’s outer bands was already falling.
Most of the island’s 3,000 residents had evacuated over the last two days. With Matthew still on track to hug the Georgia coast, Dickey wasn’t taking any chances.
“We kind of tried to wait to see if it will tilt more to the east,” away from land, Dickey said. “But it’s go time.”
Dickey, his mother and his two daughters were among several last-minute evacuees leaving Tybee Island early Friday.
Tybee city officials said all emergency responders were leaving the island by mid-morning, shortly before the morning high tide that – combined with the rain – threatened to flood the only road on or off the island.
Georgia transportation officials are closing a bridge that is one of the main routes between the mainland and the barrier islands off Brunswick in anticipation of high winds from Hurricane Matthew.
The Georgia Department of Transportation said in a news release that the Sidney Lanier Bridge would close at 10 a.m. Friday and would remain closed at least until strong winds subside.
The state’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge, the Sidney Lanier Bridge is a primary route to the Golden Isles – including Jekyll Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Little St. Simons Island – from Interstate 95.
Transportation officials say high winds, particularly at the bridge’s elevation, would likely make it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles, so the bridge is being closed for the safety of the public.
A coastal Georgia hospital has closed its emergency room and transferred patients elsewhere ahead of Hurricane Matthew.
Officials with Southeast Georgia Health System announced early Friday that its Brunswick campus has been evacuated, including about 180 patients who were sent to other facilities in Georgia and Florida.
The system’s statement says that patients’ family members or emergency contacts were notified of any transfers.
Officials said they acted due to a mandatory evacuation order issued for Glynn County and the rest of Georgia’s coast.