Downed trees and power outages are the only problems reported so far in Effingham County because of the remnants of Hurricane Irma, the Emergency Management Agency director said Monday.
“Everything’s related to trees and power lines,” Clint Hodges said.
He said 7,500 Georgia Power customers were without electricity. He doesn’t know yet how many Planters customers are without power, but said the outages are not system-wide.
First responders were stopped from answering calls briefly Monday morning when winds reached 40 mph. Winds soon died down to 25 mph and they were soon back on the road, clearing trees from power lines and roads.
Hodges asked residents to stay off the roads if at all possible through Tuesday for the safety of first responders.
“We had a couple of close calls” during Hurricane Matthew, when residents nearly ran over crews that were working to clear roads. “People were out looking and not paying attention,” he said.
He said he expects the heavy rain and high winds to peak mid-afternoon Monday, and then begin diminishing through Monday night.
“It’s still a very large storm,” he said. “It will be well into the evening and night before the strong winds and rain subside.”
The county remained under a voluntary evacuation, with five area churches operating as shelters. One of them had a generator for backup power to help people who have medical needs that require electricity.
Hodges said he doesn’t have numbers yet but each shelter served from a handful to a couple of dozen residents.
Elam Egypt Baptist Church had 17 people stay overnight, according to the pastor’s son, Jason Moore. He said some were church members and some were not.
Those who stayed were people who didn’t feel safe staying at home because of such things as big trees or because they live in mobile homes.
The people who stayed, ranging in age from 8 to about 60, brought their own air mattresses and bedding and camped out in church classrooms.
They played board games and watched weather reports on their phones, Moore said.
The church had power until about 7:30 a.m. Monday.
Schools, government offices and many stores were closed in Effingham County in anticipation of the storm.