ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. — A violent storm system that spawned deadly tornadoes in the South delivered torrential rain and dangerous winds to the Middle Atlantic states and Northeast, leaving at least three people dead and tens of thousands without electricity as swollen rivers threatened flooding.
Two people were killed by tornadoes Tuesday and Wednesday; a third was found dead Thursday in a flooded homeless camp.
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 at the storm's peak as a cold front sent what had been unseasonably high temperatures plummeting to near-freezing depths.
Heavy rains 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, Md., outside Washington, some dams were opened to ease pressure after the heavy rains. Some flooding also was reported in North Carolina and West Virginia.
Dangerous winds whipped through the nation's midsection Thursday. In Detroit, icy roads were blamed for a massive chain reaction wreck involving about 30 vehicles on Interstate 75. At least three people died there, and another pileup involving more than 40 vehicles near Indianapolis closed a stretch of Interstate 70 in both directions.
Some of the storm's fiercest damage occurred in Adairsville, Ga., some 60 miles northwest of Atlanta, where an enormous funnel cloud splintered houses and collapsed a manufacturing plant.
On two occasions, tornadoes have ripped through the Daiki Corp. steel plant that employs more than 90 people in the small community. Both times, everyone inside escaped serious injury.
The sprawling facility won't be reopening anytime soon this time, however: Most of it has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
Rodey Kirby was working Wednesday when the lights started flickering and the plant manager told workers to run. They took cover in a restroom, and Kirby and two colleagues kneeled and started praying. He heard the unmistakable roar of a tornado; he looked up and saw the ceiling tiles vanish.
"I'd see daylight and no daylight; daylight and no daylight. And then it seemed like it took forever, but then it was over," Kirby said. "I looked around and everybody was there. And I'm glad (God) heard our prayers because that's the only thing I could do with it, just hold on and pray."