Adairsville, GA (USA TODAY) - Violent storms continued to rake the southern USA Wednesday as a ferocious cold front roars toward the Eastern Seaboard.
One storm produced a tornado in Adairsville, Ga., where the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center is reporting "major structural damage," cars overturned and people trapped. One person has been reported killed.
The storm struck late Wednesday morning in the town northwest of Atlanta. The Associated Press reported the storm demolished a home and left at least 10 cars overturned.
Officers noted that at least one apartment building in the town was "pretty much destroyed," numerous vehicles had been overturned and a mobile home park had suffered extensive damage.
Storms have raced across the southern and central U.S. Tuesday and Wednesday, blacking out power to thousands, downing trees and damaging homes.
So far during this two-day outbreak, there have been more than 400 reports of severe weather, mainly high winds and large hail. There have been nine reports of tornadoes.
The rapidly changing conditions created a risk of tornadoes in the nation's Southeast through the day Wednesday. The Storm Prediction Center said the tornado threat was greatest in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
High winds are likely later in the day and overnight in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
One death was reported when a large tree blew down on a shed in Nashville, where a man was sheltering, police told Nashville broadcaster WTVF-TV. Authorities did not immediately release further details when contacted by the Associated Press.
In Arkansas, another person was reported injured by lightning during the storm's eastward trek. The storm was marching just ahead of a cold front as the volatile system headed toward the Eastern Seaboard, dumping heavy rain in Kentucky and parts of Tennessee.
Thousands were reported without power in Tennessee, where tornado and flash flood warnings were issued for various counties and a tractor-trailer truck was blown on its side by high winds.
Entergy Arkansas Inc. reported at least 9,000 power outages in several communities around Arkansas at the height of the storm, including in and around Little Rock.
Authorities in Arkansas said they would be checking reports of possible twisters kicked up near a Little Rock suburb and in two locations in northwestern Arkansas. Power lines fell, trees were toppled, and some homes suffered damage to rooftops around the state, according to emergency officials.
The National Weather Service reported that suspected straight-line winds of up to 80 mph were reported in Arkansas late Tuesday night along with flooding in low-lying areas of Jonesboro in Arkansas' northeastern corner. Police in the Arkansas community of Monticello reported a person was injured by lightning late Tuesday but the injury was not life-threatening.
While the South copes with severe weather today, wintry weather is slamming the northern Plains and upper Midwest, according to AccuWeather. Up to half a foot of snow could fall in portions of Iowa, Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Winter storm warnings were out across all of those states.
Lake-effect snow, heavy in some snowbelt areas, will persist Thursday and Friday in the Great Lakes, the Weather Channel predicted.
Bitterly cold air will also roar into the northern Plains and Midwest today. Low temperatures tonight will drop to 30 degrees below zero in portions of North Dakota, AccuWeather predicted. The high temperature Thursday in Minneapolis is forecast to be 1 degree.
The cold will move toward the East Coast on Thursday and Friday, though temperatures will not be nearly as cold as in the Midwest.
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 the University of Missouri campus.
Chicago residents also have been whiplashed by recent weather extremes. Workers who suffered through subzero temperatures and brutal wind chills a week ago strolled through downtown without coats Tuesday as temperatures soared into the mid-60s.
Carol Krueger, who lives in the Chicago suburb of North Hoffman Estates, noted that just a few days ago she was struggling to drive through blowing snow. All she needed Tuesday was a light jean jacket, although by Thursday temperatures were barely expected to reach 20 degrees.
"It's bizarre, it's scary," Krueger said of the swiftly changing weather.
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.