As Hurricane Matthew began snaking its way up the Interstate-95 corridor that runs the length of the east coast Thursday night, Ware County Emergency Management Agency director Jonathan Daniell made an ominous prediction he’d rather not have to make.
“This is going to be a catastrophic event. It will be one of the worst things ever to hit Georgia or Florida. The coastline is going to be changed. A lot of things are going to be changed after this storm,” said Daniell. “There is going to be a lot of damage.”
Daniell’s concern for the people of the area was audible as he talked of Matthew’s strength, the cost in lives and dollars, his prayer that conditions would change.
His prayer was at least in part answered, for not long after he spoke, Matthew weakened from a Category 4 to a 3. Still … the storm has the juice to pack quite a wallop.
Daniell predicted that the cost of the hurricane would be many billions of dollars with the face of the beaches and coastline being changed forever.
“The latest track shows it has moved closer to shore, going up the Florida coast and not turning east until it gets around Brunswick,” said Daniell at 10 p.m. “That is going to make it worse for everybody.”
Daniell said people were still evacuating and that a shelter which was opened at 6 p.m. at the Waycross Middle School was already full.
Volunteers on a local hurricane information line (287-4499) were fielding calls and helping to provide residents with answers to their many questions. The line is in operation so as to reserve 911 for real emergencies.
“We are taking calls as they come (at the EMA headquarters on Harris Road),” said Daniell. “We anticipate the storm to hit us about noon Friday (today) and be solid for 24 hours with tropical force winds and multiple power outages.”
In hopes of preventing injury and death to humans, Daniell urged everyone to stay away from downed power lines they may see, fallen trees and rising waters, as all three could be life-threatening. He also said he hoped that everyone had made “as much preparation as humanly possible” before the onset of the storm itself.
Daniell said he hoped the stores would be restocked overnight following a 48-hour run that left store shelves sorely lacking in many basic commodities.
“There’s already over 300 dead in Haiti,” said Daniell, adding that Hurricane Matthew would likely be a disaster of “major proportions.”
Thursday saw a steady stream of evacuees from Florida and coastal Georgia through Waycross. Major and minor arteries soon backed up with motor vehicle traffic. Thursday afternoon at 3:30, law enforcement said traffic was at a snail’s pace all the way from south of the Florida state line through Waycross.
High school football in eastern Georgia has been severely affected by the approach of the storm. Many games were shifted from Friday to Thursday, only to be re-scheduled again. For instance the Pierce County-at-Brantley County game was moved to Thursday at one point. It will now be played Monday at 6:30. Ware County’s game with East Lake of Tarpon Springs, Fla. was canceled entirely.