TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. — The Latest on Hurricane Matthew in Georgia (all times local):
Georgia’s utility companies say about 115,000 customers remained without power in southeast Georgia and along the state’s coast as crews continue working to restore services after Hurricane Matthew.
Georgia Power reports that about 93,000 of its customers remained without power Monday evening.
Separately, the state’s electric membership cooperatives said about 22,000 of its customers were without power Monday night. They said that’s down from around 100,000 Saturday morning.
Georgia’s utility companies say about 150,000 customers remained without power in southeast Georgia and along the state’s coast as crews continue working to restore services after Hurricane Matthew.
Georgia Power reports that more than 122,000 of its customers remained without power Monday.
Separately, the state’s electric membership cooperatives said about 27,000 of its customers were without power Monday. They said that’s down from around 100,000 Saturday morning.
Marianne Fahey says she’s still feeling “stunned” at the damage Hurricane Matthew left behind in Tybee Island.
The 60-year-old Fahey left the island early last week to stay with friends in Savannah and returned Sunday afternoon to find an oak tree had uprooted and fallen into her one-story tan house.
On Monday, a group of neighbors and friends volunteered to help cutting away limbs from the tree, hoping to get a look at damage to the house. As a chainsaw buzzed, a woman and a teenage boy walked back and forth on the roof, tossing down limbs that shook the ground for people to pick up and stack near the street. Another neighbor drove down the shady street, offering lunch.
“It feels so overwhelming,” Fahey said, watching the work. “We’re just so thankful everybody’s OK. A house, you can fix. Everybody’s safe and that’s what really counts.”
Fahey said she had no doubts about leaving the island, preferring to be far away from “unpredictable” hurricanes.
“Next time, I’ll go even further” than Savannah, she said.
More than 2,000 Savannah residents evacuated by bus to shelters in Augusta had begun to return and would be taken to a local shelter if they were unable to safely go home.
Chatham County emergency management director Dennis Jones says crews from FEMA were arriving Monday to assess the damage and determine if it’s severe enough to warrant a federal disaster declaration for the Savannah area that would free up funding to help residents repair and rebuild.
Officials say whether or not they had electricity, most Savannah-area residents had safe drinking water and working sewer service.
Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach says he was concerned people returning might let down their guard and get hurt by live power lines, falling limbs or in crashes on the street if they failed to treat intersections without working traffic lights as four-way stops.
DeLoach says he had seen blacked out intersections where “people were literally running through the lights and not stopping. There’s going to be some serious accidents if people aren’t careful.”
There were plenty of signs of recovery in Savannah on Monday morning, two days after Matthew hit.
Some traffic signals were back online at busy intersections. A growing number of gas stations and grocery stores were reopening and power outages were down to about 85,000 homes and businesses in Chatham County — down from more than 140,000 right after the storm hit.
Roadblocks keeping evacuated residents from returning to Savannah and neighboring Tybee Island had been lifted.
Still, local officials were pleading with people to remain patient and remain extra cautious, saying a full recovery was still far away. Fallen trees and downed power lines still blocked many roads, and others remained flooded.
Many intersections still had traffic signals blacked out.
“You may not be able to get to your homes,” Lee Smith, county manager for Chatham County, said at a Monday news conference. “There may not be grocery stores open in your area. This is a long process — not days, but weeks or months.”
An Ohio couple is a part of a huge wave of residents returning to Tybee Island after Hurricane Matthew.
Tom and Kelli McKenna of Cleveland drove to the site of their future home Monday morning. They flew to Atlanta early last week and drove to Savannah on Sunday to check for any damage at both the condo and building site.
The McKennas have had their condo on Tybee for a decade.
Their builder recently completed the foundation and piers for the house of heavy gray bricks and planned to start framing the house this week. But several trees that have fallen on the lot and others still listing to the side could slow that plan.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Tom McKenna, 60, said, minutes after pulling up to the lot. “It could be a lot worse.”
Kelli McKenna, 60, joked that a skinny pine tree she’s not fond of managed to survive the storm and said she was sorry to lose several cypress trees surrounding the house.
“It’s a shame,” she said.
Tybee Island resident Tess Winchester returns to her beachfront home in relief after finding power back on at her home and job.
Winchester left her hotel in Savannah around 7 a.m. Monday and cruised through a checkpoint at Highway 80 where law enforcement asked for proof of residency. She works at Benny’s Tybee Tavern.
More than 120,000 residents and businesses in coastal Georgia are still without electricity. Chatham County has the bulk of the outages with more than 82,000.
Employees of several surf shops and restaurants on Butler Avenue busily removed plywood from windows and piled sandbags into trucks.
Despite the stress of worrying about the storm’ effects on the island and friends who stayed behind, Winchester said she felt blessed.
“I haven’t taken a vacation in six years, Winchester said, standing behind the bar juggling calls from suppliers and visits from other returning locals. But it’s time to get back to work.”
A steady trickle of pickup trucks and other cars are being allowed onto Highway 80, which connects Tybee Island to the mainland.
Members of the National Guard and Georgia State Patrol are stationed Monday morning at the start of the highway in Savannah. They are checking identification to ensure only residents are returning.
A traffic sign at the entrance to the Island delivers an alternating message: NO SEWER NO FLUSHING.
Debris, including some downed trees, can be spotted along major streets and almost all traffic signals remain out, with stop signs reminding drivers to stop at four-way intersections. Power trucks are still on the streets, with workers in baskets to reach electric poles.