iWitness weather user fshelton25 says he was driving home on Interstate 75 in Adairsville, Ga. Wed., Jan 30 when he saw a wedge tornado right in front of his car.
PORTLAND, Maine — The deadly storm that stretched across 1,700 miles Thursday caused havoc in the South brought flooding to the Mid-Atlantic, and downright wacky weather to northern New England.
Three people died because of the massive storm system that marched across the U.S. — tornadoes killed one each in Tennessee and Georgia, while floodwaters killed a third in Maryland. While most came away with their lives, many lost their homes and were left with little else a day later.
(MORE: Surviving an EF3 Tornado)
The storm's most destructive element struck Wednesday in Adairsville, Ga., where authorities believe a tornado swelled to 900 yards wide and as it tore across northwest Georgia for nearly 22 miles.
National Weather Service officials say the Wednesday twister had an estimated wind speed of 160 mph when it demolished a large manufacturing plant in Adairsville, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta.
Crews that toured the destruction Thursday say they believe the tornado, which destroyed more than 60 buildings in Bartow and Gordon counties, was a strong EF3 tornado.
Tens of thousands were without power at the storm's peak as a cold front sent what had been unseasonably high temperatures plummeting to near-freezing depths. Dangerous wind blanketed the nation's midsection, with subzero temperatures and wind chills recorded in the Dakotas.
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.
(SLIDESHOW: Homes Flattened, Cars Crushed)
Others closely watched rivers swollen by torrential rains, and officials opened flood gates to ease pressure on dams in Maryland. Hundreds were evacuated to higher ground. In Anne Arundel County, one person apparently drowned in a flooded camp where homeless people live in tents, said police Lt. T.J. Smith.
In Laurel, Md., More than a hundred homes and businesses in Laurel, Md. were evacuated Thursday afternoon after heavy rains prompted the opening of nearby dams. A commuter rail station in Laurel was also closed because of floodwaters. Roads in Montgomery County, Md. are closed, and some are even buckling, due to the heavy rain and high water.
In New England, the region was hit with thick fog, heavy rain, record warmth, ice jams and wind gusts topping 70 mph that caused numerous power outages. It was capped off with a pendulum swing back to colder temperatures.
"Wind gusts up to 81 mph were clocked in southern New England early Thursday, including gusts over 60 mph at New York's LaGuardia Airport and Boston's Logan Airport," says weather.com Senior Meteorologist Jon Erdman.
At the height of the storm, winds knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers in New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. There were at least three high water rescues in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. There are also reports of flooding in Boone, N.C. and wind damage in New Jersey.
Across northern New England, powerful wind gusts knocked out electricity for more than 100,000 homes and businesses, mostly in Maine, while warm temperatures and heavy rainfall caused ice jams on many rivers, threatening a number of communities, including Montpelier, Vt.
Several ski areas shut down for the day because of rain, or strong winds, or both.
In Maine, the wind gusted to 63 mph in Bath, ripping the copper sheathing off a 50-foot-long section of roof at the Maine Maritime Museum. Gusts also hit 54 mph in Augusta, and 49 mph at the Portland International Jetport.(MORE: Social Media Reports and Photos)
Offshore, the wind hit 60 mph at New Hampshire's Isles of Shoals and 74 mph at Maine's Matinicus Rock.
"That's natural for us," said Wanda Philbrook, post master on Matinicus Island, which is 20 miles from the coast of Maine. "It's just another day in paradise."
Canon City, Colorado
iWitness weather user Sawyer James Perry snapped this photo in the Spring of 2012. It's a great illustration of the height of tornadoes. Note the debris field in the bottom third of the photo. The funnel cloud itself rises thousands of feet in the air. (iWitness weather user: Sawyer James Perry)