The mayor’s office confirmed that a 220-bed shelter will be opened at Frank D. Chester Recreation Center at 1441 Benning Drive to help house evacuees from Florida and the affected areas of the Georgia coast as Hurricane Irma approaches the mainland.
If the shelter fills up, another shelter could be opened at the Roy Martin Center in Russell County, said Candace Poole, 2-1-1 Manager at United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley.
Poole also said that people can find housing resources by dialing 211 or by texting “31902 IRMA” to the number 898211.
United Way will also collect shelter resource information on its website.
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The Ledger-Enquirer has released a guide to the city for evacuees newly arrived or arriving in Columbus.
City officials said Thursday that Columbus could expect severe weather as storms spin off from Irma. Departments were reviewing their guidelines and protocols to prepare for any impact, and offered tips on how to protect life and property during the storms.
“We expect the Columbus, Georgia area to have some of the ring effect storms from Hurricane Irma,” Mayor Tomlinson wrote in a press release. “At times, these storms may be severe and may cause localized flooding. These storms are expected to hit the Columbus area Monday morning”
Governor Nathan Deal issued a State of Emergency declaration for 30 counties along the east coast of Georgia, and a mandatory evacuation for specific areas.
“I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in Hurricane Irma’s path,” Deal said.
The most recent models from the National Hurricane Center put Irma on a collision course with south Florida and then tracking north-northwest either up the peninsula or along the east coast. The chances of a “direct impact” on Georgia are increasing, but it is still to early to specify the size or potential of the impact, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm will pass over the Bahamas and Cuba between Saturday and Sunday and expected to reach Florida by 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tropical-storm-force winds are expected to reach Georgia by Sunday afternoon, with the hurricane potentially hitting the state as a powerful Category 3 storm.
Evacuees have already booked nearly every hotel room in Georgia, including those in Columbus. Columbus State University will host more than 130 students from Armstrong State University after the university announced an emergency closure.
Hurricane Irma, still a Category 5 storm and the largest ever recorded in the Atlantic, has already been linked to at least 12 deaths and has caused massive damage to the Caribbean islands of Barbuda and St. More than a million residents in Puerto Rico are without power.
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE