COLUMBUS, Ga. — It’s a watch and wait game for most agencies based in the Chattahoochee Valley. As the continental U.S. braces for the impact of Hurricane Irma, the sheer strength of the now Category 5 hurricane has local sheriff’s offices, power crews, and emergency services on standby.
Meteorologists say Irma is the most powerful storm to come out of the Atlantic Ocean. The storm packed winds topping 180 mph as it barreled its way across the Caribbean.
“It’s a lot of anxiety,” evacuee Michael McCoy tells News 3. “We’re not really sure what to expect.”
McCoy, fellow Floridians, and millions of others are now in search of safety amid a sea of uncertainty. Georgia Power crews are currently on standby, watching and waiting to see when and where Hurricane Irma will hit the coast.
“Right now, we’re really in a monitoring mode and identifying crews to be ready to go,” Georgia Power West Region External Affairs Manager Robert Watkins says. “But until we know where the storm is going to go, we’re not going to send people in harm’s way.”
Watkins says the company is organizing several crews to respond to reported damage. He emphasized the severity of the storm, but he also warned the Fountain City was prepared for its impact.
“Columbus is ready,” Watkins tells News 3. “We’ve proven it before when we got hit, and we can do it again.”
The Alabama-based branch of CARE Ambulance has four units already hitting the pavement in South Florida, evacuating people from Irma’s path. Meanwhile, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones has crews on alert, ready to serve.
“[We are] helping them to protect and of course bring things back online in the event of damage to critical structures and power,” Sheriff Jones says.
Several crews and communities in the direct path of Hurricane Irma now wait for the storm that has destroyed the bulk of a few Caribbean islands.
“This is a dangerous storm,” Watkins says. “Be ready to survive the worst and hope for the best.”
Georgia Power is offering safety tips for people before, during, and after the storm. The company urges people to stay aware and check the weather forecast before heading outdoors. They suggest turning off air conditioners as power surges could possibly overload them. Georgia Power also wants people to charge their cell phones in case there is loss of power.
During the storm, take safe shelter inside a sturdy building away from windows and doors. Avoid contact with conductors of electricity, including appliances, metal objects, and water.
After the storm, Georgia warns people never to touch any downed power lines or low-hanging wires. Do not pull tree limbs off power lines without the assistance of professionals. Piles of debris could also cover up dangerous traps in downed lines.