NOTE: As Irma's trajectory changes, continue to stay in touch with your local weather news or the National Weather Service to get the latest updates.
MT. VERNON — The threat of Hurricane Irma and almost-certainty of a traffic quagmire prompted Brewton-Parker College President Steve Echols to issue a series of messages Wednesday and today for students and faculty.
"We are canceling all classes at the Mt. Vernon campus on Monday and Tuesday (September 11-12)," Echols stated in a message sent out at 11:45 a.m. today." He further noted that classes at the Newnan campus will continue as scheduled.
A rumor circulated Wednesday that the school's campus would be evacuated. However, Echols confirmed that students who wanted to stay, could. Those who lived in areas outside of Irma's immediate impact could leave for home. But, Echols warned of growing traffic congestion as northbound interstate lanes continued to clog up with those heeding evacuation warnings.
"Our campus will be fully operational for our students who remain on campus," he continued. "If we lose power, we have generators to ensure that food service will continue. Above all, BPC will take every precaution for sheltering students if high wind gusts occur."
As of Thursday evening, Irma had weakened only slightly, maintaining 175 mph winds as opposed to earlier winds clocking at 185 mph. The National Weather Service warned of "destructive winds, storm surge, dangerous surf, heavy rainfall, and flash flooding" in the path of Category 5 storm that had already brought heavy destruction to the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbuda, St. Martin, and Anguilla. Irma's current track has it arriving in southwest Georgia Monday afternoon.
Montgomery County, where Mt. Vernon is located, has as yet to be declared a State of Emergency by Governor Nathan Deal. Echols' latest message at 4:38 p.m today clarified what it means should it become one.
"Please know that should that status change there is no anticipated evacuations in our county. We have learned this is often merely to aid in funding and that only those counties east of I-95 have been under a mandatory evacuation."
He further urged students to maintain clear channels of communication with home.
"In regards to whether you plan to stay or go home, please communicate with your parents or guardians and determine the best option for you. Any students who are not in the projected areas of impact are certainly welcome to return home. From our EMA office, should you decide to leave they encourage you to do so today as the roads are becoming increasingly congested. For those of you who live in a declared impact area, please plan to shelter in place on our campus.
"If you are leaving – you MUST sign out with your RA so we can get a firm count of who is here."
Echols also informed students and staff that should further notifications regarding class cancellations become necessary, that information would become available by 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12.
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