Tropical Storm Irma winds gusting in Georgia, trees falling, power outages reported

The National Hurricane Center reports Tropical Storm Irma packs 70 mph winds and higher gusts as it heads to Georgia.

As of 8 a.m., the storm was near Cedar Key, headed for the northwest panhandle of Florida and traveling at 18 mph.

The storm will move into Central Georgia as of Monday afternoon, but tropical storm force winds of more than 40 mph have already been reported.

People are warned to stay off the roads as gusty winds are downing trees and power lines across Georgia.

Two vehicles hit a tree in the 400 block of Pierce Avenue just after 5 a.m. Monday as winds are gusting as what is left of Hurricane Irma is approaching.

Frederick Thornton said he was headed to work at Courtyard by Marriott when the tree came crashing down.

“It came down and I ran right into it. There wasn’t anything else I could do,” Thornton said as he waited with Bibb County sheriff’s deputies. “Just ran right into it and it’s dark.”

In addition to the winds, flash flooding is expected with rainfall totals of up to 10 inches possible in Middle Georgia.

With a flash flood watch until 8 a.m. Tuesday, everyone should be prepared for street flooding.

The Ocmulgee River also is expected to rise above flood stage of 18 feet, but the crest will depend on how much rain falls. As of early Monday, it’s anticipated to rise nearly 3 feet above flood stage and cover parts of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail.

Tornadoes are likely in southeast Georgia, but sustained tropical storm force winds will be the main threat.

The Macon-Bibb County EMA is warning the strongest winds will come between 2 and 8 p.m. Monday with gusts approaching 70 mph.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page kept its trademark sense of humor as it warned residents should prepare to be without electricity for days.

“You might even lose your internet connection which probably scares you more than being without TV or air conditioning.”

The post went on to say that it is hard for first responders to “plan ahead for what we call the ‘stupid factor.’”

The sheriff’s office encourages everyone to use common sense and try not to complicate already dangerous situations for officers and firefighters.

“Try to avoid the stupid factor. Stupid makes more work for us... If you have stupid friends, avoid them until the power comes back on. If YOU are the stupid one, then please sit this one out and wait til an ice storm to come along before you demonstrate your capabilities.”

Stay tuned for updates on macon.com.

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

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