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Local area braces for tropical storm force winds, heavy rain, power outages

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — Customers were queuing up at local stores to purchase bottled water and other necessities Monday and Tuesday while awaiting updates on Hurricane Michael and when it would make landfall and how it would affect the local area.
Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 92 Georgia counties on Tuesday morning. The Sumter County Board of Commissioners also declared a local state of emergency.
Nigel Poole, Sumter County EMA director, was holding regular scheduled briefings for local public safety officials and emergency responders, and other stakeholders. He announced that the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) will open at 1 p.m. Wednesday and remain open until the storm has passed.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Atlanta/Peachtree City is now predicting that Hurricane Michael, now a Category 2 and located about 360 south of Panama City, Fla., and is expected to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday morning at Category 3 with sustained maximum winds of 110 mph.
Poole said the Americus area can expect high winds and heavy rain beginning around 3 p.m. Wednesday and continuing into Thursday morning. He said there is a 92 percent chance of wind gusts from 50-60 mph and between 3 and 5 inches of rainfall. There is a risk of tornadoes as well.
He said the two emergency shelters will be open Wednesday but urges people to arrive at them prior to the storms and not during or after. Americus Police Chief Mark Scott said the Public Safety Building door will be unlocked Wednesday night but there will be no provisions at the location.
Local schools are closing for the safety of faculty, staff, and students.
South Georgia Technical College President John Watford, Ed.D., announced the decision to close the college and its satellite locations on Wednesday and Thursday. The college is scheduled to reopen on Friday at its normal time, weather permitting. Watford encourages all students, faculty, and staff to exercise extreme caution during the hurricane storm advisory period and to pay close attention to local updates and heed all official guidance.
Also, the 4th annual SGTC Jets Booster Club Sparky Reeves Golf Tournament has been rescheduled due to weather concerns. The tournament was scheduled for Thursday, but has now been rescheduled for Nov. 9 at the Griffin Bell Conference Center.
Georgia Southwestern State University will be closed for all functions Wednesday and Thursday.
All Sumter County Schools will be released at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and will be closed all day Thursday.
Southland Academy had not made a decision about closing as of presstime. Look for updates at www.americustimesrecorder.com
Magnolia Manor said that all residents are sheltering in place on all its campuses around South Georgia. They purchased more emergency backup generators this year which will help.
Phoebe Sumter Medical Center plans to continue its normal operation. Joe Austin, Phoebe, COO, issued the following statement Tuesday.
“Phoebe is committed to providing a safe environment for our patients, staff and visitors, and we are constantly monitoring Hurricane Michael as it moves toward our area. Our leaders are gathering for regular briefings, and we have been participating in statewide conference calls with other Georgia hospitals and our state partners.
“We have taken steps to continue operations and keep our patients and staff safe. Our hospitals will be fully operational and prepared to meet the healthcare needs of southwest Georgia during and after this storm. However, to help minimize travel in our area, we have decided to cancel all outpatient and elective procedures, as well as close all Phoebe Physicians clinics on Wednesday and Thursday. Additionally, visitation will be limited to one caregiver per patient, as we have reduced staffing to those essential to the delivery of patient care.”
By Tuesday morning, some store shelves were looking bare. Harvey’s had seven pallets of water (72 cases, 24 per case) on the floor, and was expecting to be delivered from Pepsi. They also reported having ordered 24 pallets of water from their warehouse. Store Manager Corey Davenport expected those to arrive sometime between 3 and 8 p.m. Tuesday, but wasn’t 100 percent certain because the Florida Panhandle is the main priority.
Walmart’s manager on duty, Samantha, told the Times-Recorder that the store was receiving a truck full of water and is “fully equipped with water.”
Save A lot’s store manager, Robert Poole said he had a truck full of water coming in, 10 pallets to be exact. Assistant store manager Regina Nether said they had already gone through five pallets Tuesday morning. Each pallet contains 84 cases (24 in a case). Nether also said they had gone through a pallet full of gallon-size bottles of water, 288 gallons of water.

Food Lion’s store manager said they had eight pallets of water as of Tuesday morning.

Downtown merchants were advised mid-day Tuesday by local public safety officials to secure and/or take inside all outside furniture, i.e. tables, chairs, flags, signs, etc. This will ensure that loose equipment does not get damaged or blow away into the streets during the weather, which could hinder first responders from using the roads for emergencies. Local residents are also advised to secure outside furniture, trash hoboes, etc., which can become dangerous projectiles during high winds.
With the rain and wind, trees can be expected to fall as well as power lines resulting in widespread power outages. Georgia Power has a toll-free line for reporting outages 888-891-0938 and a map is available at georgiapower.com
Sumter Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) customers can report power outages on the free Sumter EMS app or log into the online portal on its website https://billing.sumteremc.com.oscp/ or call 1-800-342-6978 to speak with a representative. Use the automated system to enter the information using your keypad on your phone by calling 1-800-342-6978, press 6. Customers can also report outage from the Sumter EMC website’s outage map http://outage.sumteremc.com
Poole said that those who rely on home oxygen should have already made preparations now in case of power outage.
Poole said updates on Hurricane Michael will also come through Code Red, the county’s emergency notification system.
Be sure to visit www.americustimesrecorder.com for more updates.