A suspected tornado touched down in Adairsville, killing at least one person in the town about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, Bartow County Fire Chief Craig Millsap told The Associated Press. The person’s body was found in storm damage in the hard-hit town. Millsap said additional details were not immediately available.
The owner of Adairsville Travel Plaza, Theresa Chitwood, told the AP the storm tore off about a quarter of the travel plaza’s roof.
“The sky was swirling,” Chitwood said, adding 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 and ripped the roof off of a nearby bank, Chitwood said.
“It sounded like a freight train coming through,” she said, adding that small produce stands that were near the travel plaza before the storm were gone Wednesday afternoon, “It looks like a bomb hit it.”
Chitwood and others pulled two men out of trucks that were damaged in the storm, and ambulances transported others to a nearby hospital.
Crews were responding to reports of people trapped in storm-damaged residential and commercial buildings in Adairsville, where there were reports of some injuries, Millsap said. Crews were trying to get into the damaged areas to assess the situation.
I-75 was closed in both directions near mile marker 306 for a time as crews responded to the scene, authorities said.
Atlanta station WSB-TV aired dramatic footage of a large funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville and cars strewn across a street in the area. Large sections of a sprawling manufacturing plant appeared to have been demolished in the storms.
The storm struck Adairsville late Wednesday morning, said Chris Moseley, an administrative assistant with the Bartow County Emergency Management Agency. The possible tornado roared through the downtown area, demolishing a home and leaving at least 10 cars overturned, Moseley said.
Most of the damage was along Georgia Highway 140 near downtown Adairsville, she said. The highway was closed in both directions at mile marker 4.46 through Adairsville. Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman Mohamed Arafa said police, fire officials and Georgia Department of Transportation crews were on the scene waiting for the power to be turned off so they could address downed lines.
Arafa wrote in an email that he did not know when crews would be able to clear all the downed lines and debris so that the road could reopen.
The storms were part of a powerful system over Georgia bringing the threat of widespread damaging winds and isolated tornadoes to the state.
Georgia Power said 10,200 customers were without power in the wake of the storms — with about 5,600 of them in northwest Georgia and 3,500 in metro Atlanta — as of 3 p.m.
A tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service Wednesday afternoon that spanned 64 counties in central and north Georgia was set to expire at 8 p.m. Forecasters issued a severe thunderstorm warning in the metro Atlanta region.
An emergency manager reports that a tree fell on a house in Rome, though there were no immediate reports of any injuries. Earlier, high winds brought down power lines south of Summerville, the emergency manager in Chattooga County reported.
The line of storms was expected to track through the Atlanta metro area by mid-afternoon Wednesday.