Tifton Grapevine

As a "potentially catastrophic" Hurricane Michael approaches the Florida Gulf Coast , area schools and many businesses are closing in the Tiftarea in anticipation of the storm that is expected to bring tropical storm , and possibly hurricane , conditions to the area beginning late Wednesday .

“A potentially catastrophic event is developing,” says the National Weather Service forecast office, which serves Tallahassee and Southwest Georgia . The office warns of “ widespread power outages , downed trees blocking access to roads and endangering individuals, structural damage to homes and businesses, isolated flash flooding and the potential for a few tornadoes .”

Among local closures are:
Tift County Public Schools – Wednesday and Thursday;
Tiftarea Academy – Wednesday and Thursday;
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College – Wednesday, Thursday and Friday;
University of Georgia Tifton Campus – Wednesday and Thursday;
Southern Regional Technical College – Wednesday and Thursday;
City of Tifton government offices – Wednesday;
Tift County government offices – Wednesday and Thursday;
Turner County Schools – Wednesday and Thursday;
Ben Hill County Schools – Wednesday and Thursday;
Berrien County Schools – Wednesday; fall break begins Thursday;
Irwin County Schools – Wednesday and Thursday; Friday night’s football game has been moved to noon Saturday;
Worth County Schools – Wednesday and Thursday.

The intensifying storm is likely to make landfall early Wednesday afternoon and hit the Greater Tiftarea by Wednesday night into early Thursday . Winds could reach up to 75 mph locally, and rainfall between five and eight inches in some areas is possible. A flash flood watch is underway.

Tift County, City of Tifton and state officials met twice Tuesday . At 4 p.m. Tuesday , the County Board of Commissioners declared Tift County in a State of Emergency . Beginning 8 a.m. Wednesday , the Tift County Emergency Management Agency will activate and fully staff its Emergency Operations Center for the duration of Hurricane Michael and its immediate aftermath.

Two “safe haven” shelters will open for local residents at First United Methodist Church in Tifton and at the Omega Baptist Church , according to the Tift County Emergency Management Agency.

The National Weather Service forecast for Tifton calls for t ropical storm conditions possible Wednesday with showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall.

Tropical storm conditions are expected Wednesday night with high winds and heavy rainfall. Chance of precipitation is 90 percent. On Thursday, t ropical storm conditions are possible with showers and thunderstorms primarily before 2 p.m. Clearing is expected by Thursday night.