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Two dead following huge storm system in southern U.S.

At least two people are dead following the severe system (file photo courtesy: Darryl Pauls)
At least two people are dead following the severe system (file photo courtesy: Darryl Pauls)

The Canadian Press

January 31, 2013 — At least two people are dead after a huge storm system battered the southern US with tornadoes.

Firefighters digging through post-tornado wreckage
Firefighters digging through post-tornado wreckage

Kandi Cash trudged in rain through the splintered debris of her grandparents' home, hoping to salvage photos and other keepsakes after violent storms and tornadoes scoured the Southeast, leaving two people dead before bringing rain and frigid weather to the Northeast on Thursday.

The demolished home was one of many in the Georgia city of Adairsville splintered by a massive storm front as it punched across the southeast on Wednesday and then headed across the densely populated Eastern Seaboard.

The vast storm front shattered homes and businesses around the midwest and south with tornadoes and high winds.

By Thursday, it had spread tens of thousands of power outages from Georgia to Connecticut, triggered flash floods and forced water rescues in areas outside Washington. Evacuations were ordered in parts of Virginia and Maryland with river levels on the rise.

In Laurel, Maryland, outside Washington, officials were opening some dams to ease pressure after the heavy rains. Authorities in Rhode Island said gusting winds blew the roof off a building in Central Falls

A wind gust topping 100 km/h was recorded in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York as temperatures plunged with the cold air mass creeping up behind the system.

Near the nation's capital, emergency responders in Virginia's Loudoun County said they conducted water rescues early Thursday after some flash floods.

One Virginia motorist was plucked from a van's rooftop after veering into a water-filled ravine, WTOP radio reported.

Water rescues also were reported in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Maryland.

Some flooding was also reported in North Carolina and West Virginia.

Wednesday's tornado risk
Wednesday's tornado risk

WSB-TV in Atlanta aired footage of an enormous funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville, where winds flattened homes and wiped out parts of a manufacturing plant. Insulation dangled from trees and power poles, and a bank lost a chunk of its roof.

Anthony Raines, 51, was killed when a tree crashed down on his mobile home, crushing him on his bed, Bartow County Coroner Joel Guyton said.

Nine other people were hospitalized for minor injuries, authorities said. The other death reported from the storms occurred in Tennessee, where an uprooted tree fell onto a storage shed where a man had taken shelter on Tuesday.

Near Adairsville, the storm was powerful enough to flip cars, including one turned upside down onto its roof. "The sky was swirling," said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza.

Georgia Power said some 9,600 customers were still without power Thursday morning, down from about 14,000 a day earlier.

Around the Southeast, meanwhile, authorities were investigating several reports of twisters. 

In Tennessee, officials confirmed that a tornado with peak winds of 185 km/h touched down in Mount Juliet. No serious injuries were reported even though the path of damage was about 150 yards wide.

At least six other tornadoes were reported statewide. At a shopping centre in Mount Juliet, large sheets of metal littered the parking lot and light poles were knocked down.

One wall of a Dollar General store collapsed and the roof was torn off.

Until this latest bout of storms, it had been 220 days since tornado fatalities had occurred in the U.S. -- the longest stretch since records began being kept in 1950, according to the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center.

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