state storm alert area

Lee County will get hit hard today, weather experts predict.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham is predicting severe storms to begin rumbling through the area between 2 and 8 p.m. Strong tornadoes are possible and damaging winds of up to 70 mph are likely, according to the National Weather Service.

Several local events are being impacted by Saturday’s weather. The Auburn University men’s basketball game against Georgia moved its tip-off time to 11 a.m. from 5 p.m. ahead of the storms.

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said the decision to move the game wasn’t a hard one to make.

“The safety and security of our community, our university, the teams and everybody that needs to travel in to work the game, I think, by far, takes precedent over this,” Pearl said.

The game was originally scheduled to be featured on ESPN, but the two schools and the conference agreed to play the game earlier in the day. It will be televised on ESPNews.

The Auburn Parks & Recreation Department also is being affected. A planned health-and- fitness fair, FitFest, is canceled due to the incoming weather. The event will not be rescheduled, the city said.

Meteorologist Jim Stefkovich of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency issued a statement Friday warning about the particular risk of “both widespread and significant wind damage anywhere in Alabama on Saturday.”

“An intense line of thunderstorms will likely bring widespread damaging, straight-line winds with embedded tornadoes,” he said. “This could include strong, long-tracked tornadoes. Although supercell development ahead of the line is still unclear, a very possible scenario is for a few supercells to develop and then merge with the line itself.”

Be prepared

The main message being given by state and local authorities is to be prepared:

Make sure all cellphones, iPads and laptops are fully charged, in order to receive local weather alerts.

Monitor TV, radio and social media for up-to-the-minute developments.

Stock up on batteries and candles in the event of power outages.

If planning to attend events during the afternoon, call ahead to make sure they haven’t been canceled or postponed.

Don’t travel during the storm activity, unless absolutely necessary.

Watch for downed trees and flash flooding.

Wicked weather also will pose a threat to much of the South and Midwest today as the system moves eastward, forecasters said.

On Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Baldwin County canceled school activities including sporting events that were scheduled for today.

The weather service warned of flooding and the potential for 10-foot-high waves on beaches, where Northern visitors escaping the cold are a common sight during the winter.

The latest forecasts call for up to 4 inches of rain in parts of Texas and southeast Oklahoma, according to the National Weather Service.

Many streams already are at or near flood level because of earlier storms, and heavy rains could lead to flash flooding across the region, forecasters said. Parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were under flash-flood watches on Friday in anticipation of the drenching rains.

Watch and @oanow on Twitter Saturday for storm coverage.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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