Millions in Southeast at risk of high winds, tornadoes and large hail

A storm barreling toward the Southeastern United States will leave nearly 55 million people at risk of tornadoes, damaging winds and thunderstorms Wednesday, according to a CNN forecast.

(CNN) — A storm barreling toward the Southeastern United States is expected to leave nearly 55 million people at risk of tornadoes, damaging winds and thunderstorms Wednesday, according to a CNN forecast.

A system of storms will affect Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina before moving into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, according to the National Weather Service. The storms are expected to come in two waves: one in the morning, and another in the afternoon and evening.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for much of Alabama and Georgia, which means that conditions are favorable for severe weather.

Strong winds and baseball-size hail are expected in parts of Alabama, where Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency ahead of the weather event.

Jake Reed, a meteorologist for CNN affiliate WHNT-TV in Huntsville, Alabama, issued a stark warning of the coming storm on Facebook, saying it was “far and away the biggest threat Alabama has seen in quite some time.”

“The storms that form in the afternoon have the potential to pose a significant threat to life and property,” he wrote.

In Georgia, there’s also a chance for isolated tornadoes and hail, National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Sena told CNN.

Due to the weather, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport just after 9 a.m.

The weather system is also expected to bring heavy rains to the Interstate 20 corridor, including metro Atlanta, according to the National Weather Service. Rainfall amounts will average 1.5 to 2 inches, and a flash flood watch has been issued for that area, according to the weather service.

The severe weather could last longer than Monday’s storms and affect cities such as Atlanta and Augusta before it moves north by the end of the day, Sena said.

At least five people died when a severe storm system swept through several Southern states over the weekend and Monday.