WEATHER UPDATE: EF-0 tornado confirmed in Hall County

[6 p.m.]: Hall County Emergency Management Officials confirmed an EF-0 tornado touched down along Gaines Ferry Road around 12:03 a.m. Thursday, Channel 2 Action News reported. The path was 2 miles long and nearly 75 yards wide with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

[12:30 p.m.]: Heavy rain south of I-20 and flash flooding all across metro Atlanta will be the primary concerns Thursday afternoon, according to meteorologist Jennifer Lopez. A flash flood watch continues until 7 p.m.

“We’re still seeing some steady showers right across Atlanta and some thunderstorms just to the south of the city, but the biggest concern as we go through the next few hours is the threat for more flash flooding,” Lopez said.

Flooding was causing lane closures on I-285 at I-85 on both the inner and outer loops, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center. Expect delays on the Perimeter through Fulton County, the Traffic Center reported.

While showers are tapering off in northwest Georgia, steady rainfall continues in the northern Atlanta suburbs, Lopez said. Those showers will slowly push toward the south, she said, where thunderstorms with heavy rainfall continue at midday.

A strong thunderstorm headed toward Eatonton was reported at 12:30 p.m.

“With all of this south of I-20, look out for the threat of heavy rainfall as we go right through the afternoon,” Lopez said. She expects skies to begin clearing by 5 p.m., in time for tailgating outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium ahead of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

[10:30 a.m.]: A secondary flash flood warning has been issued for the Southside of metro Atlanta as thunderstorms continue Thursday morning.

Southwestern Fulton, Clayton, northwestern Henry and northern Fayette counties are included in the warning, which is scheduled to expire at 4 p.m. Parts of Carroll, Coweta and Heard counties are also included.

Thunderstorms capable of producing flooding were located on doppler radar shortly before 10 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. Parts of Henry and Fayette counties were also under severe thunderstorm warnings until 10 a.m. that have since expired.

Flooding has been reported on multiple roads across metro Atlanta. On Dallas Highway in Marietta, only one right lane is open at Casteel Road due to standing water, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.

Two right lanes are closed due to flooding on I-20 West at Candler Road. The Traffic Center suggests motorists take Glenwood Road to avoid any delays.

In Gwinnett County, Kilgore Road is closed at Cross Road in Buford after a utility pole was damaged. There are wires down across the road, according to Gwinnett police.

“Avoid the area, expect delays, and plan alternate routes,” the police department said on Twitter. “We estimate this intersection will be closed for several days while repairs are made.”

Power outages continue across the state. As of 10:30 a.m., more than 3,300 Georgia Power customers and 800 Georgia EMC customers were in the dark, according to the utilities.

UPDATE [8:30 a.m.]: The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for several metro Atlanta counties, including Fulton, effective immediately.

Southern Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, southwestern Fulton, central Carroll, Haralson and southern Paulding counties are included in the warned area. The warning is scheduled to expire at 2:15 p.m.

“At 8:25 a.m., doppler radar indicated thunderstorms producing heavy rain across the warned area,” the Weather Service said in an advisory. “Between 1.5 and 3 inches of rain have fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches are possible in the warned area.”

Areas near small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways and underpasses could experience flash flooding, as well as other poor drainage and low-lying areas. A flood watch is in effect for parts of North and Middle Georgia until 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads,” the Weather Service warned. “Most flood deaths occur in vehicles. Be aware of your surroundings and do not drive on flooded roads.”

ORIGINAL STORY [6:30 a.m.]: Heavy rain continues to fall all across metro Atlanta on Thursday morning after a long night of strong storms and powerful wind gusts that knocked down trees and power lines.

The heaviest rain is falling along the Southside, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Jennifer Lopez. Additional rain bands with embedded thunderstorms are moving across the Alabama border before daybreak, and Lopez said communities west of Atlanta are getting wet — again.

“Expect heavier showers anywhere along I-20 as we go through at least the next hour,” Lopez said just before 6 a.m.

Volume is lighter than normal two days before the New Year’s holiday, but wet roads have contributed to some early crashes. The Downtown Connector was shut down for more than two hours while authorities investigated a crash in the southbound lanes at Williams Street.

The lanes reopened about 6:15 a.m., and traffic is recovering, WSB traffic reporter Mike Shields said. Until the delays clear, commuters can take I-285, which is wide open, he said.

Despite numerous reports of fallen trees, only about 4,000 Georgia Power customers across the state were without power at the start of the morning. Less than 400 Georgia EMC customers were still in the dark, with the majority in metro Atlanta.

Several severe thunderstorms were reported overnight, but the National Weather Service has not confirmed any tornadoes during the storms. Although the threat of severe weather has ended, Lopez said showers and some locally heavy downpours will stick around for the remainder of the morning commute.

“We are still expecting the rain, especially during the morning hours,” she said. “Slowly tapering off as we get to the afternoon, but not totally disappearing. And this rain is not going to cool things off. Highs today get right back up into the low 70s.”

Atlanta is expected to reach a high of 72 degrees Thursday. Any higher, and it would be the third record-setting day in a row. Atlanta set new record highs on Tuesday and Wednesday, at 75 and 74 degrees, respectively. The last time the city was this warm during the final week of December was 1984, according to Weather Service records.

Temperatures are typically in the 50s for highs and the 30s for lows this time of year. On Thursday morning, Atlanta is starting off in the mid-60s. The number to beat Thursday afternoon is 73, which was also set in 1984.

Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Jennifer Lopez said the rain will not tamp down the warmer weather, with temperatures in the 70s in the forecast again Thursday.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Lopez said the rain should wrap up in time for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium tonight. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“If you’re headed out to the Peach Bowl, you should be in decent shape,” she said. “But rain comes back as we head into late tomorrow night. Keep that in mind as you make your New Year’s Eve plans.”

Rain is 40% likely Friday but 80% likely Saturday, and Lopez is expecting the bulk of the shower activity right around midnight. Sunday should be much drier, she said, and big changes are in store for the start of next week.

“Temperatures are going to still be warm until a strong front comes in on Sunday, and look at the numbers on Monday morning — down into the upper 20s,” Lopez said. “Starting the new year on a cold note.”

The projected high Thursday is 72 degrees, and rain is 60% likely.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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