The National Weather Service said the tornado had an EF0 rating with wind speeds up to 80 mph. No homes were destroyed, compared to the 56 homes in Buford that received extensive damage.
That tornado was classified as an EF2 tornado, with winds up to 135 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said Wednesday that the damage topped $5 million in Gwinnett County. Statewide figures were not immediately available to reflect damage left by storm systems that passed over other parts of metro Atlanta.
"I don't recall seeing so many people or such a high percentage of people displaced by a storm like this," said Oxendine.
"You never think it's going to happen in your area, and really it's scary," said Kathleen Latonna, who lives in Buford.
John O'Connor said his family was safe, despite a close call.
"You can see the side of the house literally sucked away from them while they were sitting on the couch, and not a scratch on them," he told Channel 2's Manuel Bojorquez.
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The tornado damaged 56 homes and one business near Gravel Springs and Morgan roads in Buford, according to firefighters. Twelve homes received major damage and one home was completely destroyed.
"I was laying on the bed and I thought, 'Oh my god, the house is shaking.' I thought the window was going to blow in. I got up ... I was so scared," said Latonna.
One home on Gravel Springs Road was missing an exterior wall. The siding and insulation from the home was woven into a toppled tree about 50 yards away.
A neighboring home also sustained serious damage; others in the subdivision had minor damage.
Fekria Ahmed told Channel 2's Tom Regan she had just sat down to have afternoon tea with cousins when the tornado tore away the rear half of the house.
"I felt I didn't have a chance to go to the door because the pressure was really shaking," said Ahmed.
She told Regan the tornado hit during a whiteout -- or torrential rain, thunder and lightning. The group of three hid in a tiny closet underneath the stairs.
"She found this door open and all of them got in, and then I just jumped in with them and closed it," said Ahmed. A cousin held tight to the doorknob, fighting against the powerful winds, according to Ahmed. "When we opened the door, nothing was there," she said.
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Capt. Tommy Rutledge told Bojorquez that utility companies had cut natural gas and power lines to the subdivision.
"I was on my way home from work and the parents were calling us to see if the kids were OK. I knew a tornado hit at Gravel Springs; I didn't know it was going to be our house," said resident Erin Birdsong as she arrived at the scene Tuesday night.
A tornado watch was issued Tuesday for northeastern Georgia, including Atlanta and several metro counties, said Severe Weather Team 2 chief meteorologist Glenn Burns. The watch remained in effect until 10 p.m. Tuesday. An earlier watch for western counties expired at 3 p.m., about an hour before the tornado hit.
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The weather system also caused extensive delays for commuters across metro Atlanta highways. Interstate 20 was briefly closed near Candler Road, while knee-deep water filled the I-85 southbound ramp to I-285 westbound at spaghetti junction.
American Red Cross volunteers found it difficult to take in the extensive damage. "Because there are no words. You can't put yourself in their place, just no words to explain total destruction like this," said Ruth Krohn.
iWitness2 user 19ian56 shared this video of some of the damage around Buford.