"The sky was swirling," said Theresa Chitwood, who owns the Adairsville Travel Plaza.
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 customers were still without power Thursday morning, down from about 14,000 a day earlier.
Around the Southeast, meanwhile, authorities were investigating several reports of twisters.
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.
Deaths from the latest storm 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.