— The first busloads of nearly 6,000 Marine recruits from Marine Recruit Depot pulled into MCLB- Thursday night after the Marine Corps ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel from the depot because of the threat of Hurricane Matthew.
MCLB- spokesman Colie Young would not provide a specific number of how many recruits had already arrived in Thursday. Young said he expected 150 of the buses, which were still rolling into town late Thursday afternoon. All of the recruits were expected to be at the base by Thursday night.
“We have cleaned out three warehouses to make accommodations. We have also extended the hours of the base restaurant to make sure everybody is well-fed,” Young said. “It’s important that these are active-duty recruits, and their training will not stop.”
Asked if there were any problems so far in moving so many people in such a short amount of time, Young said the only problem encountered was one bus broke down.
“Logistically we’ve had no problems because we train for events like this every year. We were prepared,” Young said.
Earlier in the Day, acting on a recommendation from the state’s Emergency Operations Command in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew, Gov. Nathan Deal issued a mandatory evacuation east of Interstate 95 for six coastal counties. A voluntary evacuation request remains in effect for residents west of I-95 in the impacted counties.
The six coastal counties include Bryan, Chatham, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden.
“The National Hurricane Center predicts Hurricane Matthew will intensify as it moves from the Bahamas up the Florida Coast,” said Deal. “As a result, I am now ordering a mandatory evacuation for areas east of Interstate-95. I also encourage the voluntary evacuation of residents in low-lying, coastal areas west of I-95.
“Shelters are opening now in these areas. To assist Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Jim Butterworth in coordinating and implementing traffic flow preparations, I’ve activated 45 members of the Georgia National Guard. They will assist state and local public safety and transportation officials. I urge Georgians in the affected areas to remain calm, be prepared and make informed, responsible decisions as we continue to monitor Hurricane Matthew’s path.”
The national weather service said Matthew had maintained a consistent path as it prepares to churn up the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts.
“The forecast for Hurricane Matthew has remained consistent for the last couple of advisories from the (National) Hurricane Center, but there was new information that just came out (at noon Thursday). The latest advisory shows the storm with even stronger winds — up to 125 knots, which is 145 miles per hour — as it hits the coastline of Florida,” Mark Wool, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Tallahassee office, said. “The latest track shows Matthew pretty much hitting the east coast of Florida and continuing directly up the coastline, on into southeast Georgia. We’re looking at an area from West Palm Beach north. It could definitely have the kind of impact the state ofFlorida hasn’t seen in a long time.”
As far as the area is concerned, Wool said it did not appear the local region would suffer from the storm.
“You in Southwest Georgia are pretty much like we are here in Tallahassee,” he said. “We’re far enough outside of things that there will be minimal impact. There is a small chance that some of the rains in the outer bands of the hurricane may rotate into our area and bring a thunderstorm or some regional heavy rains. If that happens, there could be some tropical storm-level gusts associated with the rain.”
Also in , Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Rachelle Beasley said the last of the city’s 2,400 hotel and motel rooms were booked on Wednesday night.
“We’re full up,” Beasley said. “Even Columbus is limited. We had an influx of people come into the Welcome Center Thursday. People were looking for places to eat and things to do. We also had some people wander in looking for rooms.”
Meanwhile, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital has opened it doors to patients from the Brunswick area who need to be evacuated.
Following Deal’s mandatory evacuation order, 183 patients are being transferred from Southeast Georgia Health System in Brunswick to hospital facilities further inland.
“We have been in regular contact with the Georgia Hospital Association and the Department of Public Health since Monday, preparing for the impending arrival of Hurricane Matthew,” said Gary Rice, Phoebe’s emergency preparedness coordinator. “As the largest health system in Southwest Georgia, we regularly train and prepare for incidents such as this.”
As the coordinating hospital for Region K, Phoebe has offered to accommodate 25 medical/surgical patients, eight critical care and two orthopaedic patients. Region K includes Sumter, Randolph, Terrell, Lee, Calhoun, Dougherty,Worth, Early, Miller, Baker, Mitchell, Seminole, Decatur, Grady, Thomas, Brooks and Colquitt counties.
In order to expedite hurricane evacuees moving north and west out of Savannah on I-16, the Georgia Department of Transportation is working in coordination with the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and the Georgia State Patrol to contraflow I-16 from Savannah through U.S. Highway 441 in Dublin to allow evacuation traffic the opportunity to use all four lanes in the westbound direction.
The process to contraflow the interstate was expected be in place by Thursday afternoon.
Georgia DOT Highway Emergency Response Operators and the Georgia State Patrol have formed 13 strike teams that will assist with traffic situations that may occur.
Carlton Fletcher contributed to this report.
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