ADAIRSVILLE — Powerful winds, rain and hail battered parts of the South on Wednesday, killing at least one person as the large storm system damaged homes, overturned cars on an interstate and knocked out electricity to thousands.
At least one tornado was confirmed and several more suspected, and conditions remained ripe for more. Since Tuesday, the system had caused damage across a swath from Missouri to Georgia.
In recent days, people in the South and Midwest had enjoyed unseasonably balmy temperatures in the 60s and 70s. A system pulling warm weather from the Gulf of Mexico was colliding with a cold front moving in from the west, creating volatility.
Police said high winds toppled a tree onto a shed in Nashville, Tenn., where a man had taken shelter, killing him. As the storm crept eastward, officials reported a possible tornado in Adairsville, Ga., about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. At least 10 cars were overturned on Interstate 75, and emergency crews were trying to get to people reported trapped in homes and buildings, said Bartow County Fire Chief Crag Millsap.
Across the region, downed power lines, trees and tree limbs were making it difficult to reach people who needed help.
Another person was reported injured by lightning in Arkansas during the storm's eastward trek. Two people suffered minor injuries when a mobile home was blown off its foundation in Kentucky.
The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said it was investigating reports of at least four possible tornadoes in states including Arkansas and Mississippi. In Tennessee, officials confirmed that a tornado with peak wind speeds of 115 mph touched down in Mount Juliet. No serious injuries were reported there, though the path of damage was about 150 yards wide, including homes, a warehouse and an automotive business.
Hail ranging up to nearly golf-ball size was also reported in some areas, the center said.
Thousands were reported without power in Tennessee, where tornado warnings and flash flood warnings were issued for several counties and a tractor-trailer was blown over by high winds.
The nation has had its longest break between tornado fatalities since detailed tornado records began being kept in 1950, according to the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. The last one was June 24, when a person was killed in a home in Highlands County, Fla. That was 220 days ago as of Tuesday.
The last day with multiple fatalities was June 4, when three people were killed in a mobile home in Scott County, Mo.
Earlier this week, a large swath of the Midwest and South bathed in unseasonably balmy temperatures that reached the high 70s in some areas.
The temperature in the central Missouri college town of Columbia reached 77 degrees on Monday, a record for January, and students exchanged their winter coats for shorts and flip-flops as freezing rain gave way to spring-like conditions. Foul weather made a quick return, however, with a Tuesday downpour that flooded some streets near MU. Early morning snow was expected Wednesday.