The latest on Hurricane Frances - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The latest on Hurricane Frances

September 3, 2004

Cook County  -- As hundreds of thousands of evacuees leave Florida and head north, they're creating a huge traffic jam on the Interstate.

Traffic moved at about about 20 miles per hour, then all of a sudden came to a dead standstill as they neared the Valdosta city exits. People are actually pulling off on the off ramps and shoulders of the roads to sleep.

This morning, Georgia State Patrol troopers had to actually wake people up in the cars to keep them moving north.

The head of the Florida Highway Patrol says he's "Very, very pleased" with the evacuation procedures. Colonel Chris Knight says there are no problems with traffic flow this right now.

Hurricane Frances is beginning to make its presence felt along Florida's shoreline, winds and waves are picking up.  The hurricane was about 200 miles east-southeast of the Florida East Lower Coast. Sustained winds are 115 miles-per-hour. It's moving west/northwest about 8 miles-per-hour.

Forecasters say the forward speed could slow down even more before it makes landfall. Hurricane-force winds are reaching up to 85 miles from its center. Weather officials now expect the storm's core to hit somewhere on Florida's Atlantic coast Saturday afternoon or evening. That's later than earlier predicted.

Hurricane Frances already is affecting Glynn County on Georgia's coast by forcing the cancellation of several weekend events. Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island will close tomorrow and Sunday and may reopen Monday. Park superintendent Mike Tennent says staff needs to secure the park as well as their homes in case the storm hits the Georgia coast.

The Brunswick-Golden Isles Antique Car Club canceled its annual car show scheduled for Saturday on St. Simons. Club member Brian Mallon says the storm has caused people from Florida to cancel because they don't want to bring their cars up. The event is tentatively rescheduled for November sixth.

Rangers say Cumberland Island National Seashore and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will remain open to tourists as long as the storm continues on its projected path.

Georgia Power plans to dispatch about 100 employees and 45 trucks to Perry from north Georgia to help with any storm repair. The crews are expected to arrive at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter on Sunday. The company says about 225 other workers have been told to come packed and ready to travel when they arrive for work Monday.

Officials expect to dispatch more than 600 utility contractors and tree movers to repair storm damage. Georgia's coastline not hit by hurricane since 1898

Georgia has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1898. Coastal Georgia's last hurricane evacuation was prompted five years ago by Hurricane Floyd, which jammed Interstate 16 from Savannah to Macon. More than 350,000 fleeing Georgians were joined on the state's highways by two million fleeing Florida and South Carolina.

Problems from that evacuation prompted the Georgia Department of Transportation to expand the state's hurricane routes and to post evacuation signs along 33 different routes in south Georgia.

Crews also installed control gates that look like railroad crossing arms at entrance ramps along I-16 to make it easier to reverse the eastbound lanes during evacuations.

updated at 5:05PM by dave.miller@walb.com