Powerful storm levels homes; 2 dead
BY KATE BRUMBACK and DAVID GOLDMAN, Associated Press
ADAIRSVILLE -- A massive storm system raked the Southeast on Wednesday, spawning tornadoes and dangerous winds that overturned cars on a major Georgia interstate and demolished homes and businesses, killing at least two people.
In northwest Georgia, the storm system tossed vehicles on Interstate 75 onto their roofs. The highway was closed for a time, and another main thoroughfare remained closed until crews could safely remove downed trees and power lines from the road.
WSB-TV in Atlanta aired footage showing an enormous funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, as the storm ripped through the city's downtown area. The system flattened homes and wiped out parts of a large manufacturing plant. Pieces of insulation hung from trees and power poles, while the local bank was missing a big chunk of its roof.
One person was killed and nine were hospitalized for minor injuries, state emergency management officials said. Residents said no traces remained of some roadside produce stands -- a common sight on rural Georgia's back roads.
One other death was reported in Tennessee after an uprooted tree fell onto a storage shed where a man had taken shelter.
In Adairsville, the debris in one yard showed just how dangerous the storm had been: a bathtub, table, rolls of toilet paper and lumber lay in the grass next to what appeared to be a roof. Sheets of metal dangled from a large tree like ornaments.
"The sky was swirling," said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza. She said she went outside to move her car because she thought it was going to hail. Instead, the passing storm decimated a building behind the travel plaza.
Powerful winds ripped through the entire region, with gusts powerful enough to topple tractor-trailers in several places.
Authorities were still investigating several sites to determine if damage was caused by twisters. Since Tuesday, the system had caused damage across a swath from Missouri to Georgia.
In recent days, people in the South and Midwest had enjoyed unseasonably balmy temperatures in the 60s and 70s. A system pulling warm weather from the Gulf of Mexico was colliding with a cold front moving in from the west, creating volatility.
One person was reported injured by lightning in Arkansas during the storm's eastward trek. Two people suffered minor injuries when a mobile home was blown off its foundation in Kentucky. Only one minor injury was reported in Mississippi, where officials praised residents for heeding warnings and being prepared.
In Tennessee, officials confirmed that a tornado with peak wind speeds of 115 mph touched down in Mount Juliet. No serious injuries were reported there, though the path of damage was about 150 yards wide, including homes, a warehouse and an automotive business. At least six other tornadoes were reported statewide.