Coastal Georgia under hurricane watch as evacuations begin

CARIBBEAN SEA - SEPTEMBER 8: In this NOAA handout image, NOAA's GOES satellite shows Hurricane Irma passing the eastern end of Cuba at about 8:00 am EST on September 8, 2017. Hurricane Irma barreled through the Turks and Caicos Islands as a category 4 storm en route to a destructive encounter with Florida this weekend. (Photo by NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – Georgia is bracing for potentially far-flung impacts from Hurricane Irma, which forecasters say could swamp the coast with storm surge near Savannah and topple trees and power lines in Atlanta.

The National Hurricane Center placed the entire Georgia coast under a hurricane watch Saturday as residents packed their cars and trickled onto the highways in six counties under a mandatory evacuation. A hurricane watch was also issued for the South Carolina coast from the Georgia line to Edisto Beach, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Charleston.

Irma’s center is forecast to enter southern Georgia far inland Monday and plow northward as a tropical storm or depression. Emergency officials expect tropical storm winds to reach Georgia’s coast, where storm surges could be amplified by unusually high tides.