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Tornado warnings issued as storms pound Southeast, Midwest

Posted at 6:15 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 23:50:25-04

Residents in the Southeast and Midwest were dealing Wednesday night with the damage left behind by a system of storms that barreled through, bringing high winds, hail and lots of rain.

The severe weather also moved into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service issued tornado warnings -- which indicate tornadoes are imminent -- for towns in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and South Carolina. It tallied numerous reports of hail and high winds and listed 10 possible tornadoes -- eight in Georgia, one in Indiana and one in South Carolina.

The agency's Storm Prediction Center said several reports included word of damaged houses, flying roofs and downed trees.

A resident of the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn told CNN affiliate WSB-TV that the top of a tree fell on his house after being slammed by lightning.

"Giant explosion on that pine tree out there. We thought it was a transformer," Ray Weissinger said. A smoking section of tree went through his roof, prompting fears the home would catch fire. Weissinger got his wife and 90-year-old mother-in-law out.

"Everybody's fine," he said. Weissinger did get some disappointing news when the water restoration company he hired called him back and said they couldn't come until a tornado watch expired.

Officials issued tornado watches for a broad area stretching from the Florida Panhandle up into Indiana. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for severe weather.

A tornado emergency was issued for Webster and Sumter counties in Georgia. In Sumter County, a suspected tornado up to a mile and a half wide was spotted, county emergency management director Nigel Poole told CNN.

"We are still taking cover and actively watching the storm," Poole said. "There have been reports of damage, but we have not been able to access them yet."

Hail fell in many parts of Alabama, where Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency ahead of the weather event.

There was also quarter-sized hail in Kentucky. Kev Salsman of Elizabethtown recorded video of a steady deluge on his backyard deck.

Metro Atlanta was hit twice by a deluge of rain. Almost 4 inches fell in a 24-hour period, the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City said.

Flash-flood watches were issued for several counties in northeast Georgia and South Carolina until 2 a.m. ET Thursday.

At the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, the Par 3 Contest was canceled due to the inclement weather.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The ground stop was lifted in the afternoon, but delays are expected as storms hit the area. More than 670 flights to or from one of the world's busiest airports were canceled, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.