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Massive storm front aims at Eastern seaboard

Last Updated 12:45 p.m. ET

A massive storm front that swept through the Southeast, producing extreme winds and tornadoes that left two people dead, takes aim Thursday at the heavily populated Eastern seaboard.

Forecasters said the vast storm front, which shattered homes and businesses around the Midwest and South with tornadoes and high winds, will continue to produce severe thunderstorms as the front slides out over the Atlantic.

By Thursday afternoon, it had spread tens of thousands of power outages from Georgia to Connecticut, triggered flash floods and forced water rescues in areas outside Washington.

Evacuations were ordered in parts of Virginia and Maryland with river levels on the rise. In Laurel, Md., outside Washington, officials were opening some dams to ease pressure after the heavy rains.

Authorities in Rhode Island said gusting winds blew the roof off a building in Central Falls. A wind gust of 63 mph was recorded in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York as temperatures plunged with the cold air mass creeping up behind the front. Forecasters said snowfall was possible from the Great Lakes to the Northeast — some of it lake-effect snow.

Some flooding also was reported in North Carolina and West Virginia.

Along a path pocked by shattered homes and businesses, the storm unleashed tornadoes and dangerous winds Wednesday, easily flipping cars and trucks and cutting power to thousands.

In Adairsville, Ga., 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.

One other death was reported in Tennessee when an uprooted tree fell onto a storage shed where a man had taken shelter.

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; and in Pulaski County, Fire Chief Donald Boyd told CBS Affiliate WDBJ crews retrieved a woman who was stranded for more than two hours when her car plunged into Max Creek.

Water rescues were also reported in Montgomery County, Md.

Flooding also was reported in North Carolina, where 13,000 customers were without power Thursday. CBS Affiliate WGCL reports nearly 15,000 Georgia utility customers were still without power Thursday morning.

A vehicle lies on a road after a tornado moved through Adairsville, Ga., on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. AP Photo/David Goldman

Forecasters also said snowfall was possible in varying amounts from the Great Lakes region through the Northeast.

Late Wednesday morning, a tornado tore off parts of a large manufacturing plant and ripped homes to shreds in Adairsville, 60 miles north of Atlanta. Pieces of insulation dangled from trees and power poles. A bank lost a big chunk of its roof.

In addition to one dead, at least nine people were reported injured around town, reports CBS News correspondent Terrell Brown.

Police Chief Robert Jones estimated the funnel cloud at a quarter-mile wide and said it touched down and stayed on the ground for a full two miles.

Juanita Carter dove into the bathtub to take cover -- "We heard the sounds, there weren't no sirens or nothing" -- as the structure of her cinder block house collapsed around her.

"I'm just really glad my kids weren't home and they were at school," she told CBS News.

Near Adairsville, the storms tossed vehicles on Interstate 75 onto their roofs, forcing the route to close for a time.

As many as one hundred vehicles, even heavy tractor trailers, were overturned by the high winds.

"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.

Kandi Cash trudged through the splintered debris of her grandparents' house, hoping to salvage photos and other family keepsakes. The demolished home was one of many in Adairsville splintered by the storm front. On the same lot was also a mobile home where Cash's 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."

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.

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