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Tornadoes Reported in Dangerous Storms Across Southeast

Dangerous weather slammed most of the Southeast again on Wednesday, threatening tornadoes well into the evening — and canceling the Masters' opening day for the first time ever.

"We share in the disappointment of our patrons, but the safety of everyone on our grounds is always our primary concern," Billy Payne, chairman of the Masters golf tournament, said after players were ordered off the course in Augusta, Georgia.

Millions in Southeast Under Tornado Threat 2:25

The traditional Wednesday pre-Masters Par-3 Contest had never before been called off in its 56-year history.

The cancellation (which wiped out Mike Weir's hole-in-one on the fourth hole) was forced by a strong severe weather system that left a huge area under tornado watches until as late as 2 a.m. ET Friday, the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center said.

Image: Masters Par-3 Contest canceled
Patrons leave the course at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia as inclement weather canceled the traditional Par-3 Contest kicking off The Masters golf tournament. Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer/TNS - Abaca

The advisories stretched from eastern Alabama across most of Georgia and north to parts of central Kentucky and middle Tennessee.

A large tornado southeast of Columbus, Georgia, damaged three structures in the nearby towns of Weston and Benevolence, the National Weather Service said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

"This was a long-track tornado," said Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. "We've got a lot of reports of wind damage."

"It's torn up everything back there," Joseph Ammonds of Weston, whose chicken farm was leveled, told NBC affiliate WLTZ of Columbus. "Sheds, buildings, chicken houses — and it's also destroyed I think are three center pivots on the farm."

In Atlanta, three city workers in two vehicles had to be rescued after they were trapped in floodwaters from a nearby creek, NBC affiliate WXIA reported. One of the vehicles was carrying barricades meant to prevent motorists from driving through the floodwaters when it got stuck itself, the station reported.

A ground stop was issued for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Wednesday because of weather. The Federal Aviation Administration-issued order was later lifted, but the airport said delays continued. Nearly 700 departing and arriving flights were canceled, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.

Image: Suspected tornado damage in Alabama
Trees were felled and structures were damaged Wednesday when a suspected tornado hit the town of Screamer in Henry County, Alabama. Michele W. Forehand / AP

A suspected tornado touched down Wednesday in Henry County, Alabama, downing trees and shattering small structures before crossing into Georgia, the National Weather Service said. Meanwhile, another suspected tornado damaged multiple homes in Walton County, northeast of Atlanta, it said.

The University of South Carolina in Columbia, the state capital, closed early Wednesday afternoon as intense rain flooded major intersections, many of which were blocked with barricades.

No weather-related deaths were reported, but three people were injured by lightning in Navarre, Florida, about 15 miles east of Pensacola; their conditions weren't immediately reported. And a child was injured when a tree fell on the family house in Latta, in eastern South Carolina near Florence, the National Weather Service said.

IMAGE: Lightning strike in Cordele, Georgia
Lightning strikes Wednesday afternoon in Cordele, in south Georgia near Albany. Misty Spradley Dickerson

Debra Rouse, who lives across the street from the house, said the neighborhood was being battered by extreme wind, rain and hail at the time.

"It was blowing to the point that you could not even see across the street," she told NBC affiliate WMBF of Myrtle Beach. "I stepped to the back to call my sister to check on her and my mom, and I heard a boom."

The National Weather Service said the dangerous weather would continue into Thursday morning, when a strong cold front is expected to clear out the storm system.

"Don't let your guard down if you live in Alabama, especially eastern Alabama, [through] Atlanta," Sarsalari said. "Those storms are also going to have the ability of producing some tornadoes, certainly some hail and some big-time wind."