As rain pelted down, Kandi Cash trudged through the splintered debris of her grandparents' house, hoping to salvage photos and other family keepsakes after a day of violent storms raked the Southeast, leaving two people dead.
The demolished home was one of many in the Georgia city of Adairsville splintered by a massive storm front that punched across the Southeast on Wednesday and took aim Thursday at the densely populated eastern third of the country.
Along a path pocked by shattered homes and businesses, the storm has unleashed tornadoes and dangerous winds, easily flipping cars and trucks and cutting power to thousands.
Forecasters said severe thunderstorms were expected to continue Thursday morning in the East as the front slides out over the Atlantic in coming hours. Forecasters also said snowfall was possible in varying amounts from the Great Lakes region through the Northeast.
A flash flood warning was issued for much of the nation's capital. Emergency responders in Virginia's Loudoun County said they conducted water rescues throughout the night after flooding there. WTOP radio reported one driver was plucked from the roof of a van after the vehicle went into a water-filled ravine. Water rescues also were reported in Montgomery County, Md.
Some flooding also was reported in North Carolina, where 13,000 customers were reported without power Thursday after high winds and heavy rains swept through.
On the same Adairsville lot where Cash's grandparents had their house there also was a mobile home where her aunt lived and another small house her cousin was fixing up to move into after a planned May wedding. All three homes were demolished: Christmas ornaments, children's toys clothing, household items and just about everything else that makes up a home were strewn about.
"I'm just picking up pictures," the 28-year-old Cash said. "I've found the most important ones, like when my cousin was born and her late daddy, the ones that matter most."
Cash, who lives in nearby Cartersville, rode out the violent weather in a neighbor's basement. Once the worst had passed, she called her family in Adairsville and was relieved to hear they'd all made it to a cinderblock storm shelter under her grandparents' home.
"I just told them that the Lord was watching after them," she said. "The houses can be rebuilt. The most important thing was that they were safe."
WSB-TV in Atlanta aired footage of an enormous funnel cloud bearing down on Adairsville. Winds flattened homes and wiped out parts of a big manufacturing plant in the city about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. Pieces of insulation dangled from trees and power poles. A bank lost a big 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.
Elsewhere, one other death was reported in Tennessee when an uprooted tree fell onto a storage shed where a man had taken shelter.
Near Adairsville, the storms tossed vehicles on Interstate 75 onto their roofs, forcing the route to close for a time.
"The sky was swirling," said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza.
The storm decimated a building behind the plaza. Gusting winds knocked several tractor-trailers on their sides in a parking lot.
A shelter was set up at a recreation center as temperatures plummeted to the 30s and 40s overnight and people had no heat or power. Georgia Power said some 9,600 cusottmers were still without power Thursday morning, 2,500 of them in the state's hard-hit northwest corner. That was down from about 14,000 without power in Georgia a day earlier.
Around the Southeast, meanwhile, authorities were investigating several reports of twisters from the system that had raked Missouri and Arkansas on Tuesday before heading eastward. Some tornado watches remained in effect early Thursday along Virginia's coast as the storm headed off.
In Tennessee, officials confirmed that a tornado with peak winds of 115 mph 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 center 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.
The storm deaths ended the nation's longest break between tornado fatalities since detailed records began being kept in 1950, according to the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center. The last one was June 24 in Florida. That was 220 days ago as of Tuesday.The last day with multiple fatalities was June 4, when three people were killed in Missouri.