ATLANTA — Severe storms ravaged north Georgia on Wednesday, leaving one man dead in Adairsville.
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in Gordon and Bartow counties, where up to 100 homes were damaged and 17 injuries were reported.
Officials said the Adairsville man died when a tree crushed his home. Channel 2's Craig Lucie spoke to neighbors on Poplar Springs Road.
"We tried to help him, but we couldn't get the tree off the trailer," a neighbor told Lucie.
Bartow County Coroner Joel Guyton has identified the man as 51-year-old Anthony Raines.
Guyton says Raines was lying in bed in his Adairsville mobile home when a tree crashed through the roof and crushed him Wednesday.
Channel 2's Ross Cavitt, a certified meteorologist, said a tornado formed directly in front of him as he arrived in the city. He recorded an iPhone video of a funnel cloud moving across a parking lot in the downtown area.
The Daiki Corp. plant on Adairsville Road was flattened by the tornado. The manager said employees hid in the kitchen as the plant disintegrated around them. Employees at the bank next door ran into the vault when the tornado hit. The bank was only minimally damaged, but an employee's car was thrown from the front parking lot to the back of the bank.
At a nearby truck stop, Channel 2's Tom Regan heard survival stories from drivers who came face to face with the tornado. Travis Richardson said he pulled his tractor-trailer over when he realized he was in the line of the storm.
“When I pulled over, the next thing I know, it sucked me in and it threw my truck,” Richardson said.
Amanda Brittain told Channel 2 her husband saved her life when the motel they were staying at was hit by the tornado.
"He grabbed me and pushed me and a mattress into the tub. I thought he had a hold of me but he was gone," Brittain said.
She said she found him among the debris with two broken vertebrae.
Sam Patel's convenience store was leveled by the storm.
"Soon as they said tornado was coming, the next second it just took the whole roof off. It took about 10, 15 seconds and it was all gone," Patel said.
Wednesday's storms prompted schools in Gordon and Fannin counties to be closed on Thursday.
The tornado left people trapped in heavily damaged homes and buildings, vehicles flipped in neighborhoods and on Interstate 75, and trees and power lines down.
“That sounded like a train,” Dorothy Wilkey told her grandchildren and daughter-in-law as the tornado hit Adairsville at midday. “I’ve never, in my entire life, experienced something like this.”
Power crews worked through the night to try to restore power to parts of Bartow County.
An emergency shelter has been set up at Manning Mill Road gym near Adairsville for those displaced by the tornado. Crews searched overnight for any people who may be trapped in damaged homes.
Most of the state was under a tornado watch in the morning until Wednesday afternoon.
The storms also caused flooding on metro Atlanta streets. More than an inch of rain was reported in Kennesaw, Mableton, Dunwoody and Alpharetta. The Paulding County Fire/Rescue and Emergency Management Agency said portions of multiple roads were closed due to flooding or standing water.
Thousands of Georgians were still without power Wednesday night. Georgia Power said almost 15,500 customers were without electricity across the state, including 500 in metro Atlanta, 4,400 in northwest Georgia and 3,900 in east Georgia as of 9 p.m. Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives said about 11,000 of its customers in west and north Georgia without power at 7 p.m. That number was down from 14,000 earlier in the day.
The Georgia State Patrol said it worked 83 crashes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday at the height of the fierce weather, but the authorities did not know how many of the accidents were weather-related. The crashes left 33 injured but no fatalities.
North of Bartow in Gordon County, emergency management Director Richard Cooper reported eight injuries , two of them critical, in the Farmville community. All were in their homes at the time.
“We’re still going door-to-door looking for people who may be hurt,” Cooper said. He said the destruction appears concentrated within an eight to nine-mile radius, from Hwy. 53 heading northeast to Riverbend Road.
“Some of the homes were completely destroyed,” Cooper said. “We’ve experienced pretty extensive damage.”
Homes were damaged and numerous trees and power lines were down.
The weather prompted several school and church closings, and after-school activities were canceled for Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton, Clayton, Paulding and DeKalb County schools. Click here for a full list of closings.
You can always stay up to date with the weather forecast with the WSB-TV Severe Weather Team 2 App for your iPad.