SAVANNAH - Emergency officials in coastal Georgia are keeping nervous eyes on Hurricane Irene and say they are already getting calls from anxious residents worried that the storm will make landfall in the Southeast by the end of the week.
Local, state and federal emergency managers are conferring. But since forecasters say Irene could strike land anywhere from Florida to the Carolinas, officials said they needed to wait before deciding whether evacuations were necessary along Georgia's 100 miles of coastline.
"This far out, the forecast can change dramatically," said Kelly Foster, spokeswoman for the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for disaster preparedness in Savannah and Tybee Island.
Savannah City Alderman Tony Thomas wasn't taking any chances. He said Monday he was canceling a community event at a marina in his district Saturday because of the potential threat.
Jay Wiggins, emergency management director for Brunswick and surrounding Glynn County, said his staff was taking preliminary steps such as making sure radios were working.
He said residents were already calling asking for updates on Irene and whether they needed to worry.
"It has definitely gotten people's attention," Wiggins said.
Georgia hasn't taken a direct hit from a major hurricane - a category 3 storm or greater - since 1893. The last hurricane to make landfall along the state's coast was Hurricane David, which caused only minor damage when it struck in 1979.
The last time Georgia officials ordered hurricane evacuations was in 1999 ahead of Savannah's near-miss with Hurricane Floyd, which made landfall in North Carolina.
Georgia bore the brunt of the evacuation ahead of Floyd. Motorists from three states clogged Interstate 16 and turned the 115-mile highway between Savannah and Macon into a parking lot.
The state can attribute that 118-year streak largely to Georgia having just 100 miles of coastline. Tucked between Florida and South Carolina, the coast also forms the westernmost part of the Eastern Seaboard, making it an even tougher target.