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Twisters rake Southeast; at least 2 dead

ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. -- A massive storm system raked the Southeast yesterday, 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 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.

Footage on WSB-TV in Atlanta showed an enormous funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville, about 60 miles to the northwest. The storm ripped through the city's downtown area, flattening homes and wiping out parts of a large manufacturing plant. Pieces of insulation hung from trees and power poles. 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.

Another 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 tree like ornaments.

"The sky was swirling," said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza. She said she went out to move her car because she thought it was going to hail. Instead, the passing storm decimated a building behind the travel plaza.

Winds ripped through the entire region, with gusts powerful enough to topple tractor-trailers in several places.

In Adairsville, Danny Odum and Rocky Depauw, truckers from Marion, Ill., had stopped for breakfast when Depauw got a weather alert on his phone. About two minutes later they saw debris flying through the parking lot. After it passed, Odum said he found his truck that was hauling diapers on its side with his dog, Simon, inside. Simon was scared but fine.

A shelter was being established at a community recreation center -- temperatures were expected to plummet to the 30s and 40s overnight.


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