Decisions Thursday to close schools and re-schedule (or cancel) football games were inevitable as Hermine took aim and folks in southeast Georgia hunkered down before her threat.
Ware County Supt. Jim LeBrun announced during an emergency management meeting Thursday that schools in Ware would be closed Friday and that the football game set for Friday night (Coffee at Ware) would be re-scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. Other school systems followed suit as counties surrounding Ware canceled Friday classes and postponed Friday night football games. The Beach-at-Pierce County game will also be played at 1 p.m. Saturday. (Officials were leaning toward canceling completely the Brantley County home game with Richmond Hill.)
Ware County Emergency Management director Jonathan Daniell told law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical service workers and school officials Thursday that Ware and surrounding counties were going to be hit “pretty hard” by the storm.
“We could get six to eight inches of rain. We are on the bad side and have a high risk for tornadoes,” said Daniell. “A seven in 10 chance. That’s my main concern. And out in the county, there are lots of folks in structures that are not too sound. People in that type of structure who realize it’s not strong enough need to go elsewhere.”
Daniell said the Waycross Middle School was to open as of 6 p.m. Thursday to anyone needing shelter and that the Red Cross stood ready to respond as well.
The school, he said, would not have “all the comforts of home” but it would get residents “out of harm’s way and get them out of the storm. Tornadoes are very likely in all of our surrounding counties.”
Daniell said at the meeting that the “storm may wobble a little” but that it would not matter, Ware would still be close enough to the middle of the cone to get a strong dose of “whatever Hermine has to offer.”
Severe weather, Daniell said, would bring with it a threat of trees falling, power being knocked out and roads getting blocked. And electricity outages could last for several days because rural electric companies would take much longer to restore service.
Daniell noted that he expected 911 to be inundated with calls and therefore set up another number for people to call if they have emergencies, 287-4499.
“I imagine 911 will have 1,000 calls. We also need volunteers to answer the phone out here,” said Daniell. “When the wind bows, people get scared and sometimes they just want someone to talk to.”
Ware County EMS director Dr. Bill Parham said if the winds exceed 50 mph the ambulances may be grounded for four to six hours and only “priority calls” would get a response.