UPDATE: Severe Weather Moving Across The Southeast; Masters Practice Shut Down By Storms

Apr 5, 2017

The latest on severe weather moving across the Southeast.

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

____

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.