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State, county prepare for Hurricane Irma
High winds, flooding, power outages possible
Hurricane Irma
Photo courtesy National Weather Service

With remnants of Hurricane Irma expected in north Georgia early next week, county and state officials are working to alert area residents of ways they can prepare for the storm.


Dawson County is preparing for high winds, flash flooding and power outages Monday as the storm moves north through Georgia.


Dawson County Emergency Services released a statement Friday addressing questions about what the county is doing and what citizens can do to to prepare for the hurricane.


“Daily we are participating in weather briefings with the National Weather Service,” the statement reads. “There is still a lot of uncertainty about the expected track of Hurricane Irma. At this time, we are preparing for moderate to high winds, localized flash flooding and power outages.”


In addition, DCES is rostering employees for possible deployment for patient evacuation and post event rescue and recovery, and is in regular contact with the National Weather Service, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross and other partners.


“Although this is a storm of catastrophic proportion, its exact tract is still uncertain meaning our exact impacts are yet to be determined,” the release states. “Local impact will likely be early next week.”


The National Weather Service is providing updated information as soon as it is available.


DCES recommends that citizens begin making preparations now.


Visit www.ready.gov  for a list of items recommended for your emergency kits. Some of these items are flashlights, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and medications.


If you have never registered for Swift911, please do so  to receive emergency notifications for Dawson County.


A link to Swift911 can be found on the Dawson County website at www.dawsoncounty.org. Individuals can opt to enter their home phone, cell phone, emails, and text messages. Swift 911 is used by the county and city to disseminate emergency messages, weather and other significant information.


DCES also wants residents to be aware that roadways are becoming more crowded as many neighbors from Florida are coming north to seek shelter. Hotel rooms are filling and in many areas gasoline supplies are stretched thin following the impacts of Hurricane Harvey and increased travel due to Irma.


Sawnee EMC also released a statement about proactive measures the company is taking to mitigate the impact of the storm.


Sawnee said it will invoke its emergency response plan (ERP) as the storm gets closer to the U.S., which puts its staff and contractors on notice that they will be called upon to respond to any outages caused by the storm.


Sawnee members that utilize standby generation are encouraged to test their equipment in advance of the storm to make sure it is operating correctly. Sawnee also recommends the charging of cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices in case outages do occur.


Sawnee’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system will automatically notify the cooperative of a power outage, but members may still report an outage or emergency situation in a number of different ways.


One of the easiest ways is via their mobile app, which will provide outage updates and status information. Outages may also be reported online at www.sawnee.com under the outage tab, or via the online “chat” feature. Customers can also report outages via text message by texting “out” to 678-999-8124.  Be sure to include the name on the account, and address, when texting an outage.


Similarly, Georgia Power has a page on its website dedicated to the storm, and customers can track live outages, sign up for outage alerts through texts or email and check the status of an outage in their neighborhood. Updates can be found at georgiapower.com/storm. An outage line is also open at 888-891-0938.


State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is also urging Georgians to prepare now for severe weather, including reviewing their property insurance.


Hudgens recommends that property owners make copies of their insurance policies, obtain insurance company’s phone number, inventory their personal belongings and keep all of these documents with them should they be forced to leave their homes.


Hudgens also reminds property owners and renters of the following tips:


  • For personal safety, identify what storm shelter is available to you and prepare an evacuation plan.
  • Make a plan for your pets. Not all emergency shelters will take pets. Check with your local veterinarian for help with a plan.
  • Contact your insurance agent immediately if you have had damage to either your house or car; do not delay. Your agent should provide you with claims forms and arrange for an insurance adjuster to visit your property or look at your automobile.
  • Remember in severe weather to drive with caution. Inclement weather does not absolve you of liability should you have an automobile accident.
  • A typical homeowner’s policy does not cover damage from floodwaters. A separate policy must be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program; contact your agent if you feel you need a flood policy. Remember, you do not have to live in a floodplain in order to qualify for coverage, but your community does have to participate in the program. Coverage usually goes into effect 30 days after the policy is purchased. Unlike a typical homeowner’s policy, a mobile home policy usually includes flood coverage and does not have to be purchased separately
  • Secure your property. For example, if your roof was damaged or blown off, or a tree has pierced the roof, cover the affected area with a tarp or plywood to protect your property from further damage. Keep receipts of materials used for repairs; your insurance company should reimburse you for repair costs.
  • If damage is so severe you have to leave, remove valuable items if there's nowhere in the home to lock them up.
  • Remember, many insurance companies permit their claims representatives to write checks for additional living expenses to victims on the spot. Contact your agent for details.

If you have questions about your policy, or if you are experiencing difficulty reaching your company, call Commissioner Hudgens’ Consumer Services Hotline at (800)656-2298. Phone lines are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.


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