By Kate Brumback and Jay Reeves / Associated Press
ATLANTA, GA — Severe storms raking the Southeast unleashed one large tornado and more than a half-dozen apparent twisters Wednesday, toppling trees, roughing up South Carolina’s “peach capital” and raining out golfers warming up for the Masters.
A powerful tornado toppled trees and downed power lines in rural Georgia and similar scenes played out in spots around Alabama and South Carolina amid drenching rain, high winds and scattered hail — some as big as baseballs.
The severe weather outbreak was the second to hit the South in less than a week, but no deaths or significant injuries were reported by Wednesday evening. Storms on Sunday and Monday killed five people, including a Mississippi woman who desperately called 911 from a car that plunged into a rain-swollen creek.
Portions of Kentucky and Georgia were still under threat of tornadoes late Wednesday, and flash flooding was possible in the Atlanta area, according to the National Weather Service.
Authorities in Johnston, South Carolina, a town of 2,300 that calls itself The Peach Capital of The World, reported a possible tornado there damaged about a dozen buildings. Crews couldn’t immediately check nearby peach orchards but authorities said those were already severely damaged by a late March hard freeze.
Johnston Mayor Terrence Cullbreath said he opened a local armory as a shelter and that lights were out and many streets were blocked by fallen trees. Thousands had lost power across the three states Wednesday, with utilities struggling to keep up.
“We need power back,” Cullbreath said by phone. “But there likely are more storms coming and they can’t get the power back in bad weather.”
In southwest Georgia, a powerful tornado that touched down at midday traveled some distance on the ground in rural Stewart County, National Weather Service Meteorologist Keith Stellman said. It left downed power lines and trees on roads, said Sandra James, a sheriff’s office dispatcher.
Elsewhere, a suspected tornado touched down in southeastern Alabama, before crossing into Georgia, forecasters said. All told at least nine possible tornados had been reported across Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina as the day wore on with more reports likely as the storms continued into the evening.
In Alabama, the storm hit an area dotted with vacation and full-time homes around Lake Eufaula, damaging some homes and knocking down power lines and trees, said official John Taylor, with the Henry County Emergency Management Agency. He also reported no deaths or injuries there.
Tornadoes weren’t the only threat Wednesday. The nation’s Storm Prediction Center said winds were blowing at near 70 mph (110 kph) in some areas, downing trees in several states.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency and deployed 50 National Guard soldiers. There also were multiple school closings in Alabama and many early dismissals in South Carolina.
The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights to Atlanta’s airport but those later resumed with arrival and departure delays.
As storms bore down on Augusta National, the venerable east Georgia club shut down for the second time this week as golfers tried to get in some practice before the start of the Masters tournament later this week. Officials cut short the final afternoon practice and ordered rain-bedraggled fans to leave the course. Augusta National also closed Monday because of heavy rains.
In the east Alabama city of Oxford, convenience store manager Don Copeland was working up courage to go outside and look at his truck after a storm dumped so much grape-sized hail the ground turned white.
“It’s a 2015. I just made a $550 payment this morning,” Copeland said.
The weather service said it had gotten reports of baseball-sized hail in the west Alabama town of Camden, but only small ice pellets fell at the McGraw-Webb Chevrolet Inc.
“Thank goodness we did not get that. We just had pea-sized hail, and two or three cars were damaged,” said Evan Bohannon, who handles online sales for the dealership.
In central Kentucky, Mike Callahan of the National Weather Service in Louisville said some areas received large amounts of hail Wednesday evening — some of it several inches deep. The hydrologist also reported winds up to 72 mph (115 kph) in places.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Joshua Lawson also said in an email that a mobile home in Kentucky’s Henry County overturned with a family inside, but no one was injured amid the high winds.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Latest on severe weather moving across the Southeast (all times local):
Authorities say parts of Kentucky have been pounded by hail and strong winds amid a severe weather outbreak around the South.
Hydrologist Mike Callahan of the National Weather Service in Louisville says central Kentucky received large amounts of hail Wednesday evening, and it was several inches deep in some places.
Callahan said some damage also was reported in four counties, and he said there was a report of 72-mph (115-kph) winds in another.
No injuries were reported.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Joshua Lawson said in an email that a mobile home in Henry County turned over with a family inside, but no one was injured.
Another unoccupied mobile home in the county was blown over, as was a barn on the same property.
The National Weather Service says it has confirmed that a tornado struck an area of southwest Mississippi on Monday during an earlier outbreak of severe weather.
It says a survey showed that a twister with top winds of 110 mph (175 kph) touched down inside Franklin County at 12:57 a.m. that day. It adds that the tornado then moved some 17 miles (28 kilometers) east through a neighboring county, crossing Mississippi's Interstate 55 before lifting up northeast of Brookhaven at 1:22 a.m. Monday.
The tornado, rated EF-1 on the enhanced Fujita scale, had an unusually wide path, peaking at 1,000 yards (900 meters) wide, the agency said. The storm also damaged rooftops of several homes, uprooted trees and snapped utility poles.
No one was injured.
The storm was part of a larger storm system that killed five people across the South, produced at least 13 tornadoes in Louisiana and caused flash flooding in Mississippi.
The storms raking South Carolina caused some of their worst damage in the town of Johnston, which calls itself The Peach Capital of the World.
Mayor Terrence Cullbreath said a possible tornado struck there at around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and damaged about a dozen buildings. Some were in the town's picturesque downtown.
Crews didn't immediately assess damage to surrounding peach orchards, but agricultural officials estimate a hard freeze in late March has already destroyed about 85 percent of the crop.
Meanwhile, Cullbreath says fallen trees are blocking many roads in the town of 2,300 and power was out almost everywhere. He opened the local armory as a shelter.
"We need power back," Cullbreath said by phone. "But there likely are more storms coming and they can't get the power back in bad weather."
The same storm system also was being blamed for some flooding of low-lying areas in downtown Columbia, the state capital.
No serious injuries were reported.
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 tornados.
Warning coordination meteorologist Patrick Marsh said suspected tornados 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 tornados as the day goes on.
Authorities won't be able to confirm whether those were actually tornados 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Flights to Atlanta's airport have been temporarily halted 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.
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.
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.
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.