Wednesday January 16th, 2019 1:33PM

Florence: Wind threat grows on Georgia coast, northeast Georgia likely to see strong winds, heavy rain

By The Associated Press

Portions of the Georgia coast face a growing threat of strong winds as Hurricane Florence nears the Southeast coast, but officials there aren't calling for evacuations.

Dennis Jones is director of the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency that includes Savannah. Jones told a news conference Wednesday there's a "moderate" chance sustained tropical storm winds could reach the area as soon as Thursday evening. He said some storm impacts could last through the weekend.

The National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will strike the Carolinas sometime Friday.

Jones said there's currently no need for evacuations in the Savannah area, but that could change if the forecast worsens. He said there's a low risk of flooding and storm surge risks are "very low."

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service Office in Peachtree City says the Gainesville area and other parts of northeast Georgia should brace for strong winds and heavy rains (from one-to-four inches) associated with the storm.

This is more favorable for Georgia and with the models moving toward a consensus, the confidence is higher.

AccessWDUN meteorologist John Wetherbee he has two concerns for the state.

"On the coast, tropical wind gusts Saturday and Sunday, rip currents and long-rolling waves starting today (and for northeast Georgia) still locally heavy flooding rains look likely especially Sunday.  In general, some gusty winds for most, under tropical storm strength, less the farther west you are, and periods of squally weather, some locally heavy rain bands will make it from South Carolina into Georgia."

He adds that the situation is "not clear yet, but much better (that it was earlier)."

The Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville is offering shelter for horses that may be displaced by the storm, according to a Facebook posting by Hall County Parks and Leisure Services.  "Please spread the word to your friends and family who may need assistance," the posting reads.   For more information, call 770-531-6855.

(This story will be updated as new information comes in.)

(AccessWDUN's Ken Stanford contributed to this story.)

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