The Latest: Storms cause at least five suspected tornadoes

Atlanta (AP) – The Latest on severe weather moving across the Southeast (all times local):

4:10 p.m.

A meteorologist with the nation’s Storm Prediction Center says preliminary reports indicate that strong storms moving through the Southeast on Wednesday spawned at least five suspected tornadoes.

Warning coordination meteorologist Patrick Marsh said suspected tornadoes were reported in Newton, Randolph, Webster and Dodge counties in Georgia and in Saluda County, South Carolina.

Marsh said there will almost definitely be more reports of suspected tornadoes as the day goes on.

Authorities won’t be able to confirm whether those were actually tornadoes or just high winds that blew through until they are able to get out in the field in the coming days to study the damage.

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2:46 p.m.

Authorities say an apparent tornado has caused some damage in southeastern Alabama.

National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Wool says a suspected tornado touched down Wednesday in Henry County, Alabama, before crossing into Georgia.

An official with the Henry County Emergency Management Agency, John Taylor, says the storm hit in an area dotted with vacation and full-time homes around Lake Eufaula.

He says power lines and trees are down, and some homes were apparently damaged. There were no reports of injuries or deaths, but emergency crews were on the scene sorting things out.

Tornadoes weren’t the only threat Wednesday. The nation’s Storm Prediction Center said winds blowing to near 70 mph (110 kph) in places toppled trees in several locations across Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

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2:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service says a tornado in southwest Missouri on Tuesday evening had wind speeds up to 120 mph (190 kph) and caused damage to a fire station, elementary school and several other buildings.

Meteorologist Mike Griffin said the twister hit in the community of Goodman and was rated an EF-2. One person was taken to a hospital with a possible broken ankle, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported.

Goodman is a small town is about 30 miles (50 kilomters) south of Joplin, Missouri, where an EF-5 tornado killed 161 people in May 2011.

Authorities said the roof of a fire station was stripped away by the high winds and a wall of a school was toppled. Hall also estimated that one or two dozen homes sustained damage.

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2:10 p.m.

Flights have resumed at Atlanta’s airport, but stormy weather continues to cause delays for both departing and arriving flights.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tweeted from its official account that the Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a ground stop, which means that flights heading to Atlanta from other airports were temporarily held.

Waves of heavy rain – accompanied by fog, thunder and lightning – hit Atlanta throughout the day Wednesday.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines had canceled about 300 flights in the southeast because of the weather.

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2 p.m.

With severe storms bearing down on Augusta National, the club has been shut down for the second time this week.

Masters officials suspended play at 1:25 p.m. Wednesday, cutting short the final afternoon of practice before the start of the tournament as well as the popular Par 3 Contest.

Fans were ordered to leave the course as line of dangerous storms swept across the Deep South, sparking tornado warnings in Georgia and neighboring South Carolina.

Augusta National also was forced to close Monday because of heavy rains.

The forecast is more promising through the rest of the week, though high winds Thursday and Friday could make playing conditions challenging. Sunny weather, with highs in the 70s, is expected for the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.

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1 p.m.

A forecaster says a large tornado has touched down in southwest Georgia.

National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Stellman says the tornado struck in Georgia’s Stewart County around noon Wednesday. He says the strong tornado traveled a while along the ground, headed eastward toward the central portion of the state.

Stewart County Sheriff Office dispatcher Sandra James says preliminary reports indicate the storm toppled power lines and several trees along roads and the interstate.

Initially, James says, she was unaware of any injuries or significant damages to buildings or homes.

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12:35 p.m.

Schools have dismissed early across South Carolina’s central region under the threat of severe weather.

The National Weather Service is calling for potent thunderstorms, high winds, hail and possible tornadoes on Wednesday.

All school districts in and around the state capital, Columbia, dismissed elementary, middle and high school students by midday Wednesday. The University of South Carolina canceled afternoon classes at its main campus in Columbia.

The National Weather Service has confirmed four tornadoes touched down in the state’s northwest during severe weather earlier this week.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com

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12:15 p.m.

Masters officials have reopened Augusta National for practice rounds and will hold the popular par-3 event Wednesday.

The course announced it would start the competition – and allow patrons back on the grounds – as of 12:30 p.m.

Storms and possible tornadoes passing through eastern Georgia caused officials shut down the course about 10 a.m. Patrons were evacuated because of the stormy weather.

Wednesday is the final day competitors can work on their games before the tournament starts Thursday.

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11:30 a.m.

Practice rounds for the Masters have been suspended due to an approaching weather system forecast to bring strong storms and possible tornadoes to Georgia.

Officials shut down the golf course in Augusta, in eastern Georgia, about 10 a.m. Wednesday. Patrons were evacuated because of the storm.

Wednesday is the final day competitors can work on their games before the tournament starts Thursday.

The weather also cast doubt about one of the more popular events of the week, the Masters par-3 event. Competitors typically bring family members to caddy or watch and the crowds on hand enjoy taking part.

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10 a.m.

Flights to Atlanta’s airport have been temporarily halted at Atlanta’s airport because of severe storms.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tweeted from its official account that the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered a ground stop, which means that flights heading to Atlanta from other airports will be held until it is lifted.

Heavy rain – accompanied by fog, thunder and lightning – was falling in Atlanta Wednesday morning.

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8:50 a.m.

Hail the size of tennis balls is pelting parts of Alabama ahead of what forecasters say will be waves of severe weather across the Deep South.

Forecasters say some of the largest hail hit early Wednesday in the east Alabama city of Oxford, where convenience store manager Don Copeland says ice was so thick on the ground it looked like it had snowed.

Copeland says he’s still working up courage to go outside and look at his pickup truck, which he fears was damaged by ice balls right after he made a $550 payment on it.

People are using social media to post photos of hail that hit the area. And the National Weather Service says there’s likely more bad weather to come, including powerful tornadoes.

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8:50 a.m.

Heavy rain began falling before daybreak in parts of Alabama as severe storms continue their march across the Southeast.

National Weather Service meteorologist John De Block says some locations within the state Wednesday have already received around an inch of rain. He says rain started in central Alabama around 4 a.m. and worked its way north reaching Birmingham about an hour later.

In Georgia, the National Weather Service’s website says a tornado warning is currently in effect until 9 a.m. for Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Fulton and Heard counties.

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8:15 a.m.

More than 30 counties in Alabama are closing schools and colleges or planning for early dismissals as severe storms begin their march across the Southeast.

National Weather Service meteorologist John De Block said early Wednesday he expects storms to last into the evening in southern and eastern Alabama. He says tennis ball-size hail has fallen in several areas in eastern Alabama, including Barbour and Bibb counties and in the city of Anniston.

Alabama Power officials say there have been about 2,000 outages statewide following the pre-dawn line of storms.

Multiple news outlets report the schedule changes for schools on Wednesday involve some of the largest counties in the state including Madison, Mobile and Jefferson. Major universities including Alabama and Auburn also are closed, and many churches have called off Wednesday night activities.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening and said it would last until the severe weather in the state subsides.

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This item has been corrected to correct the spelling of Barbour County and to say that Anniston is a city, not a county.

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6:30 a.m.

The threat of severe weather moving across the Southeast has led local school officials in Columbia, South Carolina, to announce early dismissals.

The National Weather Service is calling for thunderstorms, high winds, hail and possible tornadoes Wednesday.

Local news outlets report that all school districts in the Columbia area are dismissing middle and high school students early, some as early as 11 a.m. Elementary school classes will be dismissed at 11 a.m. Wednesday, and after-school activities are canceled.

Some schools in the Upstate are also dismissing early Wednesday due to weather concerns. The National Weather Service has confirmed four tornadoes touched down in the state’s northwestern area during severe weather earlier this week.

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3:20 a.m.

Forecasters expect severe thunderstorms to move across the Southeast on Wednesday, bringing a threat of tornadoes and large hail.

The National Weather Service predicts widespread, serious thunderstorms beginning early Wednesday across much of Alabama and Georgia and into the Florida Panhandle and southwestern South Carolina.

National Weather Service meteorologist John De Block says he expects storms to last into the evening in southern and eastern Alabama. He says tornadoes are likely and there’s a strong chance of baseball-sized hail.

In Georgia, meteorologist Laura Belanger says about 75 percent of the state could experience severe weather around sunrise and see it ramp up after 2 p.m.

Belanger says affected cities could include Atlanta and Augusta – the site of this week’s Masters golf tournament.

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