Metro Atlanta residents are being urged to prepare for possible high winds and flooding early next week as the powerful Hurricane Irma nears the Florida coast.

The hurricane’s path and exact timing are uncertain, but National Weather Service forecasts show some storm effects extending into metro Atlanta between Sunday and Tuesday. Depending on the hurricane’s strength and path, the local effects could include tropical storm winds, heavy rain, flooding and tornadoes. Residents should make basic preparations to go without power or water for 72 hours, local city and county governments say.

Hurricane Irma in a NASA satellite image as it passed over the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico on Sept. 6. (NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)

Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire Georgia coast east of I-95, starting the morning of Sept. 9, as well as some other nearby areas, and declared a state of emergency in 30 east Georgia counties. Many people evacuating from the coast and from Florida are coming to metro Atlanta, filling up local hotels.

The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North Hotel in Sandy Springs’ Concourse Center is sold out from Friday, Sept. 8 through Thursday, Sept. 14, largely with hurricane-evacuation bookings, according to General Manager Martin van der Laan. He said the hotel also will house some Westin employees evacuating from other hotels in the hurricane zone.

“We are very well aware of the fact that we will be dealing with families in particular,” said Van der Laan. “We are adjusting some of the offerings in our restaurant and have suspended our usual pet fees, as some people might bring their pets as well.”

Irma is one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded and has already devastated several Caribbean islands with 185 mph winds and extreme flooding. The storm’s impacts have killed at least 11 people so far, according to media reports.

General storm preparation tips

The following are basic storm preparation tips from various government sources:

  • Make a communications and meeting plan: Have a plan for how family members or other loved ones will safely meet and stay in contact if a disaster happens while you are separated.
  • Make a three-day “ready kit”: Collect any supplies needed to go at least three days (72 hours) without power or water, and any important documents you might need if evacuation is required. Basic supplies include water (at least 1 gallon per day per day person), non-perishable food, first aid items, prescription medicines, and extra clothing and blankets. If you have pets, remember to include their food, water, medicine and a safe way to store and carry them.
  • Stay informed: A battery-powered radio is a good way to get communications if the power goes out. Make sure cellphones are fully charged before the storm arrives.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has a website about making a disaster preparation plan at GEMA also offers a cellphone app that offers planning advice as well as automatic emergency alerts.

Local emergency alert systems

Several local governments offer automatic emergency alerts and information via phone, email or text. Some auto alerts in local communities include those below; click on the names for a link.

Atlanta (including Buckhead): NotifyATL

DeKalb County (including Brookhaven and Dunwoody): CodeRED

Fulton County: CodeRED

Sandy Springs: Sandy Springs Alerts

Sources: City of Atlanta, city of Brookhaven, DeKalb County, Georgia Emergency Management Agency

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.