Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency in Bartow and Gordon counties Wednesday, as several states in the central U.S. and South surveyed damage left by fierce storms and reported tornadoes that left one dead in Tennessee and another in Georgia.
A suspected tornado swept through the southwest Georgia town of Adairsville, killing one person and injuring nine others in Bartow County. Deal says eight people were injured in Gordon County and two of the injured were in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.
There were reports that people were trapped in homes and businesses in Georgia, and television footage showed large sections of a sprawling manufacturing plant had been destroyed. Crews hope to complete search and rescue efforts by 10 p.m.
The same storm system was blamed for a death in Tennessee. Most dangerous were powerful wind gusts that in several places were powerful enough to overturn tractor trailers.
WZTV reports one person in the Nashville area was killed as a line of strong storms packing up to 80 mph winds tore through the state, triggering tornado warnings and producing strong downpours of rain. The station reports four others were injured in a local trailer park and up to 30,000 in the area are without power.
Police in the Arkansas community of Monticello reported one person was injured by lightning there, but the injury was not life-threatening.
Forecasters said they were checking reports of possible twisters kicked up by the strong storm system, including one report from a Little Rock suburb as well as two other locations in northwestern Arkansas. There were no reports of injuries from those storms.
WDRB tells Fox News tornado sirens are going off in downtown Louisville. The station described the storm as "wild and dangerous." Damage was reported earlier in the morning in the Fort Campbell area.
Fox 59 reports as many as 20 homes sustained heavy storm damage in eastern Greene County in Indiana. An Indiana police spokesman called the area "hazardous," saying debris was reported on state roadways and power outages are widespread.
Thousands were left without power in Arkansas amid damage to the rooftops of homes. Entergy Arkansas Inc. reported at least 9,000 power outages in several communities around Arkansas, including in and around Little Rock. Flooding was reported in low-lying areas of Jonesboro in Arkansas' northeastern corner.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency urged residents to be on guard for severe thunderstorms, high winds and the possibility of tornadoes amid the collision of cold and warm weather systems.
"This storm will move through the state while most folks are asleep, which increases the potential for injuries," said the Mississippi agency's director, Robert Latham. "It is very important that everyone pays close attention to weather alerts during the next 24 to 48 hours.:
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. Early morning snow was expected Wednesday.
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. Women wore skirts over bare legs, and joggers were in shorts and T-Shirts.
"When I woke up this morning I was shocked by it, but it's Chicago," said Anne Sunseri, 30, who went out for a break from her job at a legal recruiting firm in just a light leather jacket. "You never can really expect what the weather's going to be. It just fluctuates so much recently, and I don't feel like it used to be that way."
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.
On Monday, the National Weather Service predicted a "moderate" risk of severe weather more than 24 hours out, only the fifth time it had done so in January in the past 15 years, said Gregory Carbin, the director of the Storm Prediction Center.
A system pulling warm weather from the Gulf of Mexico was colliding with a cold front moving in from the west, creating volatility.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.