ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. (AP/ABC7) - 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.
Truck driver Travis Richardson was on the road watching the storm come right at him.
"The trucks and cars flying over the truck, it was unbelievable. Nothing like this I've ever seen in my life," Richardson said.
Tornado sirens sounded, warning residents to find cover fast.
"I had a mattress over me in the bathtub. I was worried for my family," on Adairsville, Ga. resident said.
Footage also showed a funnel cloud roaring through the downtown area of Adairsville, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, flipping cars and demolishing a home. Interstate 75 was closed in both directions after the storm flipped cars onto their roofs and tossed them onto the grassy shoulder.
At least two tornadoes were confirmed and several more suspected, and conditions remained ripe for more. 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.
Police said high winds toppled a tree onto a shed in Nashville, Tenn., where47-year-old Vernon Hartsell had taken shelter, killing him.
Across the region, downed power lines, trees and tree limbs were making it difficult to reach people who needed help.
Another 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.
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.
Hail ranging up to nearly golf-ball size was also reported in some areas.
Thousands were reported without power in Tennessee, where tornado warnings and flash flood warnings were issued for several counties and a tractor-trailer was blown over by high winds.
The nation has had its longest break between tornado fatalities since detailed tornado records began being kept in 1950, according to the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. The last one was June 24, when a person was killed in a home in Highlands County, Fla. That was 220 days ago as of Tuesday.
The last day with multiple fatalities was June 4, when three people were killed in a mobile home in Scott County, Mo.