Hurricane Irma: Georgia changes evacuation order; schools cancel; Atlanta airport status

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announce a change to evacuation orders for Hurricane Irma. (Contributed photo/Governor’s Office)

Hurricane Irma’s westward shift is prompting a change in the emergency declaration for Chatham County, Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal is altering his executive order on mandatory evacuations for all of Chatham County. The new order leaves in place a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A – the area east of Truman Parkway – but changes Zone B (Truman Parkway to I-95) and Zone C (west of I-95) to voluntary evacuations.

All three of the zones had been under a mandatory evacuation order.

"Chatham County’s phased evacuation zones B and C are primarily at higher elevations than its coastline and provides a sufficient area to stage resources and necessary first responders preparing to serve the coast of Georgia in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma," the new executive order reads.

I-16, which had been changed to allow only westbound traffic, will reopen for normal operations today at 4 p.m. EDT (3 p.m. CDT).

The latest hurricane track has Irma making landfall somewhere on Florida’s west coast on Sunday before tracking northward along the peninsula. The storm hit Cuba Saturday morning as a Category 4 before weakening to a Category 3 with winds of 125 mph. The storm is expected to strengthen again before making landfall in the U.S.

While its path on land still contains some uncertainty, Georgia areas such as Savannah and Atlanta remain among the places that could be impacted by destructive winds and heavy rains. A zone stretching from Fernandina Beach, Florida to Edisto Beach, South Carolina – a span that includes the Georgia coastline – are under a Hurricane Watch.

Tropical force winds of up to 45 mph with gusts of 60 mph are expected Monday along the Georgia coast.

Ninety-four Georgia counties remain under a state of emergency.

Other Irma news from Georgia:

Georgia cancels classes

The University of Georgia will be closed Monday, Sept. 11 with all classes, campus events and activities cancelled.

University residence halls will remain open. A decision on Tuesday operations will be made by noon on Monday.

Georgia Tech monitoring storm

Georgia Tech officials said they are monitoring Irma’s progress but as of now the Atlanta campus remains open. Georgia Tech’s Savannah campus is closed through Tuesday, Sept. 12. Classes in Savannah has been cancelled for the week of Sept. 11-15.

Schools closing

Several schools in Atlanta and in coastal Georgia are closed for multiple days ahead of Irma’s arrival. In coastal Georgia, Bryan County, Savannah-Chatham County, McIntosh County, Monroe County and Glynn County Schools closed Friday, and will remain closed Monday and Tuesday. In metro Atlanta, Butts County, Griffin-Spalding County, Lamar County and Pike County Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

Atlanta airport

Storm conditions are also being monitored at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

Delta Air Lines is warning travelers to expect disruptions in Atlanta operations on Monday.

"With strong winds and extended rain expected in Atlanta Monday, Delta is recommending customers who are transiting its Atlanta hub on Monday to modify their itineraries around Atlanta on delta.com," Delta said in a written statement.

Delta is also waiving certain change fees for travelers who booked through Sept. 17 to fly to or through Atlanta.

Hurricane Irma was expected to make landfall on Florida’s west coast on Sunday. (NWS)

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