Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a mandatory evacuation of people in six coastal Georgia counties living east of Interstate 95 on Thursday as Hurricane Matthew charted a course toward the Atlantic coast, warning that torrential rainfall and strong winds could cause widespread damage along low-lying areas. The six coastal counties are Bryan, Chatham, Liberty, McIntosh, Glynn and Camden.
He also called for the voluntary evacuation of residents of low-lying areas west of Interstate 95, and activated 45 members of the Georgia National Guard to help local officials clear the area.
"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,” he said.
Deal signed an executive order Wednesday to temporarily lift restrictions on trucks shipping key supplies to Georgia's coast and declared a state of emergency in 30 counties across southeast Georgia.
Forecasters predict the storm, which ravaged Haiti Tuesday and battered the Bahamas Wednesday, could slam into Florida’s Atlantic coast by Friday and then rake Georgia and South Carolina. Local officials earlier ordered roughly 30,000 residents in Tybee Island and other low-lying coastal communities to evacuate.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned the state could be facing its “biggest evacuation ever” as he urged millions of coastal residents to prepare. And South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley outlined plans to evacuate more than 1 million people on the coast. Some highways in southeast Georgia were jammed with commuters on Thursday as residents flocked to higher ground.
Read more of the AJC's Hurricane Matthew coverage: