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Flooding From Jeanne Hits Georgia

About 50 homes in Valdosta were evacuated early Monday because of flooding from Tropical Storm Jeanne (search), as high winds and heavy rain moved into southeast Georgia.

The National Weather Service (search) said rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches were expected west of Interstate 95 and 3 to 6 inches east of the interstate through Monday. Forecasters issued a tornado watch for 27 southeast Georgia counties Monday morning, but none were reported.

Jeanne clambered up south Georgia Monday, moving slowly and dumping rain. National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Sena said the heaviest rain would be in south and east Georgia, with metro Atlanta unlikely to get more than an inch or two.

The heavy rains forced the Valdosta evacuation, which affected about 100 people. Lisa Ray, spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (search), said no injuries were reported early Monday but that officials were still alert.

"It's following a similar track as Frances and we're seeing some of the same scenarios, power outages and localized flooding," she said.

GEMA officials called for voluntary evacuations in 20 counties, especially those living in mobile homes and low-lying areas, because of predicted high winds and flooding.

Few residents initially took up offers from local shelters Sunday, but more began heeding the warnings by nightfall. About 760 people stayed in the 24 Red Cross shelters set up throughout southeast Georgia on Sunday night, Ray said.

Georgia Power reported about 20,000 customers without power Monday morning, with the number quickly growing as the storm settled further into the state.

In Brunswick, state Department of Transportation officials closed Sidney Lanier Bridge around 8:30 p.m. Sunday because of high wind gusts, said DOT spokesman Bert Brantley. The bridge remained shut down Monday, as officials waited for winds to drop back below 45 miles per hour.

Jeanne moved across Florida on Sunday, covering much of central Florida with its girth of 400 miles. The storm, which hit Florida as a Category 3 hurricane and left at least six people dead, was downgraded to a tropical storm with top sustained winds near 50 mph.

The storm was expected to stay inland, moving into Georgia and then the Carolinas through Tuesday. Gov. Sonny Perdue (search) declared a state of emergency in Georgia through midnight Thursday to prepare for possible flooding and damage, and to prevent price gouging.

School has been canceled for Monday in Appling, Beaufort, Brantley, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Emmanuel, Evans, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Tattnall and Wayne counties.