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County unable to open shelters due to liability

Residents advised to 'shelter in place' or leave

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County unable to open shelters due to liability


Bulloch County residents are advised to either “shelter in place” or travel to a safer location in light of Hurricane Irma’s approach, but no county shelters will be open during the storm.

In a memo Thursday to county employees, Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch, who discussed the matter with Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn and risk management staff, said that due to liability issues and other reasons, no county facilities may be used to house people seeking refuge.

Private entities such as churches, however, may choose to offer safe spaces, Couch said.

“Bulloch County is not a ‘host’ community,” he said, explaining that shelter cannot be provided for people evacuating from coastal areas due to the county’s proximity to the storm’s path.

Wynn said Bulloch is located in an area susceptible to power outages and other issues due to the hurricane.

“If shelters were to open (churches, other private entities), they do so out of their own benevolence and are not county sanctioned,” Couch said. “People who feel threatened are encouraged to relocate locally or out of town to the west.”

Authorities will meet Friday morning to discuss safety plans and emergency response after receiving up-to-date information about Irma’s projected path. However, things could change as the storm approaches.

“There is still some uncertainty about the storm’s path until it makes the projected turn on Saturday morning,” he said.

Couch said decisions on whether to close non-essential county facilities will be made after the meeting Friday.

Current forecasts show Irma hitting Bulloch and surrounding counties with tropical storm-force winds beginning Sunday and possible hurricane-force winds by Monday afternoon.

 

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

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