ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. » A massive storm system raking the Southeast hammered a Georgia town today, overturning cars on an interstate and killing at least one person there, authorities said.
Bartow County Fire Chief Craig Millsap said the body was found in the storm damage but did not have further details on how the person died. The same system also was blamed for a death in Tennessee. Most dangerous were powerful wind gusts that in several places were powerful enough to overturn tractor-trailers.
There were reports that people were trapped in homes and businesses, and television footage showed large sections of a sprawling manufacturing plant had been destroyed.
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., where a man 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.
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.
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 a shopping center in Mount Juliet, large sheets of metal littered the parking lot, light poles were knocked down and bits of fiberglass insulation were stuck in the trees.
One wall of a Dollar General convenience store collapsed, and the roof was torn off. Mark Fulks Jr. runs Mark’s Automotive with his father in a building attached to the Dollar General. The garage door was blown off his shop and sitting on one of the cars inside, and Fulks said several of the cars they were working on had their windshields blown out.
A nearby office building and a distribution center for The Tennessean newspaper also had severe damage. Rick Martin, who bags the newspapers and helps his wife deliver them, was shocked when he saw what was left of the distribution center.
The metal frame of the building still stood, but its cinderblock walls had crumbled, and papers and plastic bags littered the trees.
"We feel real lucky," he said today morning as looked at the damage. "I would have hated to be in here when this happened."
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.
Associated Press Writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this report from Mount Juliet, Tenn.