All schools in hurricane-lashed Florida are closed at least until Tuesday, while Georgia and South Carolina canceled classes as Tropical Storm Irma arrives.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 early Sunday morning, bringing with it winds up to 130 MPH, creating storm surges up to 15 feet, and dumping up to 20 inches of rain.
By order of Gov. Rick Scott, all Florida schools closed Friday through Monday, with some schools like Miami-Dade County Public Schools also closing Thursday. “Our state’s public schools serve a vital role in our communities as shelters for displaced residents and staging areas for hurricane recovery efforts,” Gov. Scott said. The Florida Department of Education reported dozens of school districts will remain closed through Tuesday.
The Miami-Dade public school system, the fourth largest in the nation, said that “due to the uncertainty surrounding school shelter closings and the inability to inspect and make repairs to buildings that may have sustained damage from Hurricane Irma, all M-DCPS schools will remain closed until further notice.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all of Georgia, and closed state government offices on Monday and Tuesday, “except essential personnel.” Many schools are closed Monday and Tuesday.
A Monday afternoon update from the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency read that trees and power lines were down across the state. “Please remain indoors and off the roads,” it urged.
“We are continuing to urge folks to stay indoors and off the roadways. Please give our crews room to work so we can assist you as quickly as possible. Stay safe and heed warnings,” the Georgia Department of Transportation posted on Monday afternoon.
John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service said in a press conference on Monday that heavy rains and high tides caused flooding in Charleston, South Carolina. The Charleston School District website said school closings would continue through Tuesday, with one of their needs following the flood’s subsiding being “to inspect buildings as to bring all of our buses home.”
Greenville County Schools was closed Monday, saying, “Forecast winds in excess of 30 miles per hour will exceed limits for the safe operation of school buses and other high profile vehicles.”
South Carolina Department of Education spokesman Ryan Brown said on Monday evening that "there is no major impact on the state bus fleet" due to most schools being closed Monday and Tuesday. "We have moved buses in the Lowcountry to higher ground as needed," he told STN.
In North Carolina, high winds and flooding affected the western part of the state to the extent that some districts there let out early or canceled after-school activities on Monday and delayed school start times or canceled classes on Tuesday, according to Kevin Harrison, the state director of pupil transportation.
"Buses are not being relocated or being used in evacuation operations in North Carolina," Harrison said in a Tuesday morning email to STN, "Though school buses and school bus drivers are part of the North Carolina emergency operations plan for mass evacuation of the coastal regions, this storm did not result in evacuations in North Carolina."
The Weather Channel reported on Monday night that Irma has been downgraded to a Tropical Depression. The flooding and strong winds it brought toppled trees and led to widespread loss of electricity, and storm surge warnings were still in effect for Georgia and South Carolina coasts.