Strong thunderstorms forecast to bring tornado risk in South

ATLANTA (WCBD/AP) – 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 South Carolina, the threat of severe weather in the Columbia area has led local school officials to announce early dismissals.

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Local media 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.

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.

In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley has declared a State of Emergency that will last until severe weather expected to hit the state Wednesday subsides.

He says the warning goes into effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Bentley said in a press release that 50 National Guard soldiers will also be deployed in the state.

Multiple Alabama schools have also announced that they will be closed Wednesday.

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