Area braces for early morning storms

Get ready for what could be a long, tough weather day on Tuesday.

A major weather system with the possibility of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes is expected to move into the Chattahoochee Valley about 4 a.m. The first and heaviest storm line is expected to clear through the Columbus area by 10 a.m.But the threat won't be over, according the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Ga."A nice line of showers and thunderstorms will move in early with strong gusty winds, hail and lightning," said meteorologist Spencer Smith. "As the day progresses you will see a stronger possibility of tornados."The weather system is expected to cover the length of Alabama and Georgia. It was forecast to move into western Alabama around midnight. The National Weather Service and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency are taking this storm seriously. The organizations participated in a number of conference calls Monday in advance of the storm.The storm is expected to bring more than 2 inches of rain to some parts of the state. North Georgia, including Metro Atlanta, is still in a prolonged drought."Of course we need the rain," said GEMA spokesperson Kandice Eldon, "but we are concerned about the possibility of straight-line winds and tornadoes."People with weather radios are urged to keep them on overnight and during the day, Eldon said.The high temperature in Columbus on Monday was an above-normal 76 degrees. That warming trend and the approaching cold front are what have forecasters concerned."We are getting the warm air, which is not good for severe weather," Smith said. "We have winds from the east, southeast, which is coming up from the Gulf and the Atlantic. That will help feed the showers and thunderstorms as they move in tomorrow."

Georgia Power Company began Monday to prepare for the storm, said Robert Watkins with the Columbus office. A statewide inclement weather plan is in place, he said.

We have damage assessment teams ready to come in as soon as it's safe," Watkins said. "The storm center in Atlanta is open. We also have agreements with neighboring utilities."Columbus Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Riley Land did not respond to a message left on his answering machine.