SAVANNAH -- In churches throughout this coastal town, worshippers Sunday expressed thanks for being spared the brunt of Hurricane Frances and prayed for those who were not.

During the past several days, Savannah transformed from a possible target of the storm to an evacuation point for thousands of displaced Floridians.

The Rev. Steve Evans, an assistant rector of Christ Episcopal Church, expressed gratitude that the storms stayed south of Savannah and urged his congregation to remember those who "didn't receive the same blessing."

"We pray you would extend your hand of protection over them," he said during a prayer for victims of the hurricane. "Be their shield."

While shelters remained open in Camden, Colquitt, Cook, Glynn, Lowndes, Spalding and Tift counties, Georgia Emergency Management Agency officials advised evacuees to resist the urge to return home Sunday after Hurricane Frances slammed the eastern part of Florida and weakened to a Category 1 storm. Eight American Red Cross shelters were at full capacity Sunday morning but exact numbers were not known, said GEMA spokesman Ken Davis.

The first batch of several hundred Georgians planning to assist in restoration efforts to parts of Florida and Georgia affected by Hurricane Frances left Sunday.

About 125 Georgia Power employees from metro Atlanta and north Georgia left Sunday afternoon and planned to spend the night in Perry. Another 225 employees from metro Atlanta, Macon and Columbus planned to leave Monday. Company spokesman John Sell said the crews will work to restore power where needed in Florida and Georgia.

Nearly 500 Georgia Army and Air National Guard members planned to leave Monday morning to assist in the hurricane cleanup in Florida. They include 480 members of the Army National Guard's 148th Forward Support Battalion, which will deploy to Ocala, Fla., to support Florida National Guardsmen who are still working with the cleanup following Hurricane Charley.

The 148th and members of the Air National Guard's 283rd Combat Communications Squadron from Dobbins Air Reserve Base will assist Florida under an agreement Georgia has signed with neighboring states to help in times of emergency.

No guardsmen have been activated yet to assist in Georgia, but that will depend on how Frances hits the state.

The National Weather Service is forecasting that parts of Georgia will receive significant rainfall as the storm moves past Florida and into eastern Alabama. Rainfall is estimated to be between 2 and 5 inches in the Atlanta area on Monday night and Tuesday, and larger amounts in south Georgia as early as Labor Day.

"Flooding is definitely going to be a possibility," said Nate Mayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

GEMA officials are watching the storm while continuing to oversee evacuation issues with displaced Floridians.

"As the storm continues, it's looking like we'll probably get some significant rainfall but that's on into the week," Davis said. "There's the potential for some really big rainfall amounts in a three-day period."

Meanwhile, Hurricane Frances threatened to dump heavy rains and flooding over southeast Alabama from Monday night through early Wednesday. Alabama emergency officials Sunday kept an eye on the hurricane's progress across Florida, with the prospect of it weakening further to a tropical storm by the time it crosses the Florida Panhandle and sloshes into Alabama and west Georgia.

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