• This National Hurricane Center map showing Hurricane Irma's expected path as of 8 a.m. Sunday showed the center of the storm moving west of Rabun County.
  • By 5 p.m. Saturday, forecast models show the margin to which Irma will turn west and away from Rabun County growing.
  • As of 2 p.m. Saturday, Rabun County is forecast to be clear of the tropical storm that Hurricane Irma will become as it tracks on land.
  • The 5 a.m. Saturday forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows Irma taking a more westward track just south of Macon, leaving Rabun County just barely inside the eastern most side of the storm's possible path.
  • The latest National Hurricane Center map issued at 8 p.m. Friday showing Irma's forecasted path.
  • The National Hurricane Center forecast at 2 p.m. Friday shows Irma tracking slightly more east than forecast early Friday morning.
  • The National Hurricane Center produced this map of Hurricane Irma's expected path, as of 5 a.m. Friday.
  • This National Hurricane Center map showing Hurricane Irma's expected path as of 5 p.m. Thursday showed the center coming directly over Rabun County.

HURRICANE IRMA: The Latest for Rabun County

NEW STORY ON HURRICANE IRMA

This story will no longer be updated here. Click the link above to see the latest on Hurricane Irma.

____________________________

UPDATE: SUNDAY, 7:50 p.m.: Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School will operate on a half-day schedule tomorrow, Monday Sept. 11. Students will be dismissed at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow. Lunch will be available in all three divisions.  All afternoon activities, including athletics, aftercare and the studio classes, are canceled. Due to the threat of high winds, bus services will not run either in the morning or afternoon tomorrow.

____________________________

UPDATE: SUNDAY, 4:30 p.m.: Tallulah Falls School has joined Rabun County Schools in cancelling school for all students, faculty and staff on Monday. All athletic events are canceled as well.

Both announcements were made after Gov. Nathan Deal expanded Georgia's state of emergency to all counties. Administration for both schools say they will monitor the situation to determine any alteration for Tuesday's schedule.

Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service is closing the Lake Rabun Beach Day Use Area as part of its closures of low-lying areas because of expected heavy rains.

____________________________

UPDATE: SUNDAY, 2:50 p.m.: Gov. Nathan Deal has expanded the state of emergency to all Georgia counties. The state's Emergency Operations Command recommended the move ahead of expected heavy rains and strong winds. The state government will be closed Monday and Tuesday, except for essential personnel.

Rabun County Schools Superintendent Melissa Williams has canceled school for all students, faculty and staff. All athletic events have also been canceled or rescheduled. Tallulah Falls School is operating on a half-day schedule Monday. See below for details.

____________________________

UPDATE: SATURDAY, 4:40 p.m.: As of 2 p.m. Saturday, the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center was showing that the tropical storm Hurricane Irma will become will miss Rabun County entirely. The forecast map shows Irma's predicted path will pull much more west than earlier models were showing.

That doesn't mean Monday and Tuesday won't see bad weather. The National Weather Service is forecasting a growing chance of rain Monday, up to 100 percent, with heavy rain after noon. At one time, it was forecast that Northeast Georgia would see as much as 7 inches of rain as Irma bore down. With the storm's expected shift, rain amounts have lessened to between a half and three-quarters of an inch. Winds are expected to be between 13 and 21 mph, with gusts up to 31 mph.

Heavy rain is expected throughout the night Monday, with up to 3 inches of rain overnight, with wind speeds increasing to between 29 and 32 mph. Gusts overnight could be as high as 48 mph. Flash flood and wind warnings have been issued for Monday through Tuesday as rain will continue Tuesday morning before tapering off in the afternoon, according to the forecast. 

Tallulah Falls School has decided to operate on a half-day schedule for Monday. Monday and Tuesday outdoor games have been postponed to later dates. Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School on Saturday had not yet announced whether it would reschedule athletic events, although its Tuesday soccer game was against TFS. And Rabun County Schools Superintendent Melissa Williams is waiting until Sunday evening to announce whether there will be an altered schedule for the public school system.

Rabun County has opened its doors to evacuees. The Rabun Arena set up its stalls and was offering 40 hookups for RVs and campers. Black Rock Mountain State Park and Tallulah Gorge State Park were offering free camping to those who fled the coastal regions and Florida. Residents welcomed friends and family members who traveled north to escape the storm.

Though the storm is likely to miss Rabun County, EMA Director Michael Mazarky is urging Rabun County residents to sign up for the CodeRED system. A link to the sign up is available at Rabuncounty.ga.gov. The agency also is advising residents to download the Family Emergency information sheet from Ready.ga.gov.

If you or anyone you know has opened their homes to Floridians looking for dry ground before the hurricane hits, or if you're planning on helping with the storm aftermath, i.e., a trip to help clean up or with food/money donations, let The Clayton Tribune know by emailing Editor Klark Byrd at kbyrd@theclaytontribune.com.

____________________________

UPDATE: SATURDAY, 8 a.m.: The latest predictions from the National Hurricane Center are showing that Hurricane Irma's center will be pulled so far west that Rabun County is just barely inside the eastern most side of the storm's possible path.

According to the latest National Hurricane Center forecast models, which helped create the 5 a.m. map, Irma will take a more westward path south of Macon after it tears through Florida and Southeast Georgia. That's lessened the wind speed expected on Monday. The new path means the National Weather Service has adjusted its Monday forecast for Rabun County. Monday's chance for heavy rain has been reduced to 70 percent, growing to 100 percent in the evening and night. Tuesday's chance is 90 percent, tapering off to 60 percent by evening. 

Early on Saturday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott was making a final plea with residents to leave while they still could. Irma weakened a bit, down to a Category 4 with wind speeds of 155 mph, as it turned to Florida. Forecasts show Irma will strike the Florida coast early Sunday morning. 

If you or anyone you know has opened their homes to Floridians looking for dry ground before the hurricane hits, or if you're planning on helping with the storm aftermath, i.e., a trip to help clean up or with food/money donations, let The Clayton Tribune know by emailing Editor Klark Byrd at kbyrd@theclaytontribune.com.

__________________________

UPDATE: FRIDAY, 4:31 p.m.: Rabun County Schools Superintendent Melissa Williams has said no decision regarding the school or athletic schedules will be made until Sunday evening. She's participating in webinars with the National Weather Service. Her primary concerns are the expected wind speeds, even if Irma is downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reaches this area.

"Predictions from the last webinar show the potential for wind bands in our area beginning Monday evening to be over 50 mph," Williams posted to the school's Facebook page. "Such wind gusts make school bus travel extremely unsafe.

"No decision on altering the school day will be made until Sunday evening. As always, the safety of students, faculty and staff will be the deciding factor in any decision made. At this present time, if the forecast holds, plan on a normal school day for Monday. However, keep in mind that changes in the weather may necessitate a need to alter the school day and an early release could occur. Tuesday seems to be the most likely day that may call for an altered schedule."

Tallulah Falls School will be releasing at noon on Monday, according to school administrators. Officials will monitor the storm Monday afternoon and make a determination by 6 p.m. Monday about school on Tuesday.

Rabun County EMA Director Michael Mazarky is urging Rabun County residents to sign up for the CodeRED system. A link to the sign up is available at Rabuncounty.ga.gov. He also suggests checking starting and servicing generators and expiration dates on medical supplies, medicines and batteries. The agency also is advising residents to download the Family Emergency information sheet from Ready.ga.gov.

_____________________

UPDATE: FRIDAY, 3:51 p.m.: All Georgia state parks in Rabun County are allowing Hurricane Irma refugees to camp for free, said Black Rock State Park Manager Josh Cordle. Cordle reported that all of the camp sites at Black Rock Mountain State Park are already full, but the camp will allow refugees to camp on any dry grounds, including parking lots. 

_____________________

UPDATE: FRIDAY, 2:15 p.m.: President Donald J. Trump approved Gov. Nathan Deal's declaration of a state of emergency for Georgia and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts to Hurricane Irma. 

The president’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

At 2 p.m., the National Hurricane Center issued an updated Irma path forecast showing the storm's center coming back slightly toward the Northwest Georgia/Tennessee border. That will still put Rabun County on the right side of the storm, which Deal and meteorologists have warned is the most dangerous side because of higher wind speeds and the increased likelihood for tornadoes. 

National Weather Service meteorologists expect precipitation to slowly increase late Sunday and rapidly increase on Monday through Monday night, with isolated areas receiving as much as 7 inches of rain. Most areas are expected to receive between 4 and 6 inches of rain, with some receiving as little as 2 inches depending on Irma's actual track. Wind speeds will follow the trend, with the highest gusts expected Monday afternoon and evening. 

"With the westward shift in the track, wind speeds and gusts have dropped as the highest winds shift west. Tropical storm wind speed probabilities for our area from the Hurricane Center have dropped dramatically as well," the NWS forecast discussion states. "Of course, any wobble east would bring those stronger winds back across the area. The tornado threat remains as at least a portion of the area will be in the favorable northeast quandrant of the cyclone Monday afternoon and evening."

_____________________

UPDATE: FRIDAY, 11:15 a.m.: In a 10 a.m. press conference from Atlanta, Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia officials from the Department of Natural Resourses, the Army, the Public Health Department and GEMA updated the public on the state's preparation for Hurricane Irma.

"The most recent trajectory models have it impacting more of Georgia than the original projections that were designed, we thought, only to hit the coastal areas of our state," Deal said. "It appears that it may very well be moving more westward than had originally been thought."

Deal cautioned residents not to be fooled by the current calm and sunny conditions, saying: "Do not take that for granted."

"This is a rapidly moving hurricane, and the weather and the consequences of that hurricane can change dramatically in a relatively short period of time," he said, adding that Irma has the potential to be more devastating than 2016's Hurricane Matthew.

Deal has expanded the call for a state of emergency to 30 counties and issued a mandatory evacuation of all areas east of I-95 and other parts of the state’s coast. The 30 counties under a state of emergency are Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Camden, Candler, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Coffee, Echols, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glynn, Jenkins, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne and Ware.

The governor also addressed the danger of a more westward tracking Irma, including stronger winds and possible tornado activity.

"By shifting westward, it does have the capacity of slowing the winds down some because normally they would diminish as you go more on land, but that means a greater portion of the land mass of the state of Georgia is going to be affected by it. And, of course, one of the things that goes along with hurricanes is tornadoes, and our state has always been prone to tornado activity," Deal said.  

Rabun County was at one point Thursday directly in the path of Irma's tropical eye, but storm models by Friday morning showed the storm center tracking so far west that it would miss the Georgia/Tennessee border entirely. According to the National Hurricane Center,  areas to the right side of the storm, as Rabun County is currently expected to be, see the strongest winds from hurricanes and tropical storms. 

As a result of the current storm tracking, Rabun County's forecast by the National Weather Service was showing a growing chance of heavy rain and winds Monday through Tuesday, with Monday evening's chance of precipitation at 100 percent. Irma is expected to have diminished into a tropical storm by the time it reaches North Georgia. Wind speeds in tropical storms max out at 74 mph.

As of Friday morning, Rabun County Schools and Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School administrators said school and athletic schedules for Monday and Tuesday had not been changed.

During Deal's update, GEMA Director Homer Bryson urged Floridians and coastal Georgians to head further into North Georgia for safety. Some Rabun County residents had already opened their doors to friends, family members and Florida evacuees. Rabun Arena employees were working to set up 40 stalls in the stall barn and has 40 hook ups for RVs and campers.

"We're going to get through this. We're a resilient state," Deal said. 

_______________________________

FRIDAY, 8:45 a.m.: For some time Thursday evening, Rabun County found itself directly in the path of Hurricane Irma. 

A National Hurricane Center map issued at 5 p.m. Thursday forecasting Irma's path showed the tropical eye of the storm heading north through Georgia into North Carolina and Tennessee by way of Rabun County. At 8 a.m. Friday, the hurricane had been downgraded from the strongest Category 5 storm in the Atlantic basin to an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm. That was after it tore through the Carribbean, leaving castastrophy in its wake, according to national news reports. Irma is expected to strike Florida as early as 2 a.m. Sunday.

Hurricanes lose strength once they strike and begin tracking along land. It's expected that by the time Irma or its effects strike Rabun County, it would be at most a tropical storm. Tropical storms have maximum sustained winds of 74 mph.

Another National Hurricane Center map issued at 5 a.m. Friday shows Irma tracking further west, leaving Rabun County on the eastern side of the storm. That presents its own set of dangers as the right side of tropical storms and hurricanes produce the strongest winds, and even tornadoes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Research Division.

The National Weather Service's 7-day forecast shows an 80-100 percent chance of rain, heavy at times, on Monday for Rabun County, with rains continuing into Tuesday. The highest wind speeds are expected to come Monday afternoon and evening, according to meteorologists.

Rabun County EMA is encouraging residents to take the time to ensure family members and property are prepared for emergencies. Now is the time to check starting and servicing generators and expiration dates on medical supplies, medicines and batteries. The agency is advising residents to download the Family Emergency information sheet from Ready.ga.gov and to sign up for the CodeRED emergency notification system at Rabuncounty.ga.gov.

"As alway, please take care of each other and be safe," the agency posted on Facebook.

Rabun Arena will be open to people evacuating for the storm. County employees were working Thursday to set up stalls in the stall barn, which had been taken down after the Rabun County Fair.

"We will house as many as we possibly can," Arena personnel posted on Facebook. "We also have 40 hook ups for anyone to hook up to with a camper or RV."

If you or anyone you know has opened their homes to Floridians looking for dry ground before the hurricane hits, or if you're planning on helping with the storm aftermath, i.e., a trip to help clean up or with food/money donations, let The Clayton Tribune know by emailing Editor Klark Byrd at kbyrd@theclaytontribune.com.

The Clayton Tribune

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 425, 120 North Main Street
Clayton, GA 30525

Phone: 706-782-3312
Fax: 706-782-4230
Email: thetribune@TheClaytonTribune.com