As Hurricane Irma neared Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed urged residents to take this one seriously.
“The city of Atlanta will remain vigilant,” Reed said in a press conference Sunday. “We need everyone in metro Atlanta to be ready, too.”
Reed’s words came as Florida was being battered by the storm. The eye of Irma, the National Hurricane Center said, should hug Florida’s west coast through Monday morning and then push more inland over northern Florida and southwestern Georgia Monday afternoon.
Atlanta, which got its first-ever tropical storm warning Sunday, will see peak impact by about midday Monday lasting through the evening. Reed said the city could see more than 5 inches of rain and wind gusts.
The city will be opening a joint operation center at 7 p.m. Sunday, and it will stay open for the duration of the storm.
“This hurricane is so widespread that it will be very unlikely that we will see the same concentration in smaller areas of damage, as we have seen in the past,” Gov. Nathan Deal, who was at the state’s emergency management headquarters in Atlanta Sunday night, said.
City offices will be closed Monday, and Reed recommended metro Atlanta businesses do the same.
DeKalb County and Fulton County government offices are also closed. School closings have also been announced throughout metro Atlanta.
As for transit?
MARTA has suspended all services, rail, bus and mobility, for Monday.
Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins told the Associated Press that the utility has more than 5,000 employees on standby to respond. He said the chance for widespread outages across the state appeared “very likely,” unlike Matthew a year ago that mostly blacked out coastal communities.
The National Hurricane Center said Irma’s winds were at 110 mph, just below major hurricane status, as the center of the still-dangerous and wide storm moved farther inland late Sunday afternoon. It was smacking Naples after coming ashore in Marco Island at 3:35 p.m.
The center said “although weakening is forecast, Irma is expected to remain a hurricane at least through Monday morning.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.