November 23, 2017

Tropical Storm Warning Issued for Heard County

(Franklin, GA) — Heard County Fire Chief and local EMA director Steve Wirth is urging local residents to use extreme caution and be prepared as the remnants of Hurricane Irma approach the local area early Monday morning.

A tropical storm warning issued Sunday does include the Heard County area as well as most of Georgia.

Current forecast models show the most substantial effects should be felt in the Heard County community beginning early Monday morning and should subside at some point Tuesday although the after effects and damage from the storm could be experienced for several days.

Local residents are being asked to make any final preparations by Sunday evening and to stay at home if at all possible all day Monday.

All Heard County schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday as will the Heard County and City of Franklin government offices. Only essential county and city employees are asked to report to work.

The City of Franklin has cancelled court dates that were scheduled for Tuesday and says that those with cases will be notified once the city gets back to normal operations.

State EMA officials and forecasters anticipate the greatest threat from the storm to be falling trees and limbs due to the high winds, localized flash flooding, and potential loss of power.

The positive aspects of the forecast are that the threat of tornado activity seems to be small and the main structure of the storm is expected to move through the area quickly (within 24 hours) with very little precipitation or feeder bands coming in on the backside of the system. Some higher winds may remain, but the weather should be generally clear by sometime Tuesday morning.

Sustained winds are expected to remain around 40 MPH or less during the storm with maximum wind gusts expected to top out at 55-60 MPH between 8:00 PM Monday and 2:00 AM Tuesday.

Heavy rainfall is expected all day Monday with totals between 3-5 inches.

Governor Deal has declared a State of Emergency in all 159 Georgia counties as of noon today.

“We want to urge residents to make any preparations for this storm system by this evening,” said Chief Wirth Sunday afternoon. “It is a good idea to secure any loose items outside your home that might become projectiles during excessively high winds. It may seem bad but remember these winds will be no higher than those we have during a typical spring thunderstorm — but they will be longer lasting and more sustained.”

The Chief is also encouraging residents to not use the 911 system for non-emergencies during the storm.

“We ask that people please keep the 911 lines open only for true medical emergencies. If you need to report downed trees, power lines, or any other non-emergency issues to please call the Heard County EMA non-emergency dispatch lines,” said Wirth. “It is important that you do report any major damage that you see so that we can be aware of any and all issues.”

For non-emergencies, people are asked to call dispatch at 706-675-3328, 706-675-6186, or 706-675-6612.

“In the event the storm causes numerous issues, we ask that people please remain patient and tolerant as we try to get help to everyone as soon as possible. We also need residents to be aware that in the event of sustained winds higher than 40 MPH, there might be a delayed response if conditions are too dangerous form our crews to get out. Non-essential travel should be limited during the storm,” said Wirth. “Also please do not go near any downed or damaged power lines under any circumstances.”

A Code Red Alert was issued to local residents at 2:24 PM Sunday afternoon.

Officials don’t expect the storm to be as severe as Hurricane Opal that did so much damage to the area in October of 1995. Opal downed 4000-5000 trees in the Atlanta Metro area alone and left over 400,000 people without power while killing eight.

Heard County EMA will be double-staffed throughout the peak of the storm.

Laurie Cook, Executive Director of the Heard County Water Authority, is asking Authority customers to conserve water if a power outage occurs.

“While we still have power customers are encouraged to prepare by setting aside extra water for drinking and for flushing toilets. Once a power outage occurs, customers may be completely out of water within 6 to 24 hours, depending upon their location in the system,” said Cook in a statement Sunday. “The water treatment plant will return to normal operations as soon as possible if a power outage does occur, but we encourage customers to prepare today for the storm.”

Stay tuned to HeardCitizen.com for further details and information as it becomes available.

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