City of Augusta getting ready for Hurricane Matthew evacuees

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The city of Augusta is getting ready for Hurricane Matthew.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to evacuate the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, and many of them will end up in the Garden City.

Wednesday afternoon, there was a steady stream of cars heading west on I-20.

There were a lot more buses and campers on the roads.

“With the weather heading up the Coast, this is a location you’ll have people evacuating to,” Augusta Fire Chief Chris James said.

City officials met Wednesday morning, but the media wasn’t allowed inside.

We were told it was a closed-door planning session.

“We have an agreement with Chatham County to already accept so many evacuees from Chatham County,” the fire chief said.

Chief James says if Chatham County calls for a mandatory evacuation, at least 5,000 people will be bused to Augusta.

City officials don’t know the number of people already here or those planning to come on their own.

“Of course, most of the people that will be evacuated on the buses will be people that could not have evacuated themselves. We’re sure we’ll receive self-evacuees as well,” he said.

The city doesn’t expect traffic problems in Augusta despite the thousands expected to show up.

Government offices and schools haven’t been closed yet, though that could change.

“Some of our schools can be available, as well as recreational facilities, but as I said, once we know for sure if that’s happening we’ll be able to identify which ones will have to be open,” Augusta City Administrator Janice Jackson said.

Chief James says the city and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will provide bedding if shelter is needed.

As for the people of Augusta, James is asking them to stay calm over the next few days.

“Understand that there’s a possibility we will have a lot more citizens in our community. Make sure you’re prepared, make sure you have fuel, food and know where your loved ones are,” James said.

Augusta EMA staff members are dialing into weather service conference calls to get a better idea of when evacuations will be called.

City officials don’t expect Matthew to significantly impact our area, but they do expect thousands of evacuees to head this way.

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