Southeast Storms Kill at Least Six

Blake Fowler looks at a washed-out road near his home in Winston, Ga. Monday, Sept. 21, 2009. Thunderstorms rumbling across north Georgia spawned heavy downpours that flooded roads and homes and dumped as much as 20 inches of rain over three days. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, John Spink)
AP Photo/AJC, John Spink
Updated 12:07 a.m. EDT

A two-year-old boy has been found dead in Georgia after floodwaters swept him from his father's arms, and authorities say at least five others have died across the Southeast as rains drench the area.

Carroll County Deputy Coroner Ed Baskin said the boy was found Monday afternoon downstream of his family's mobile home, which was split apart by a swollen creek. The parents had been rescued as their one-year-old son clung to his mother's arms.

Three Georgia motorists died when their vehicles were swept off Atlanta-area roads, and another woman was found dead in the water. Fast-moving water also swept away a Tennessee man who went swimming in an overflowing ditch on a dare.

In Alabama, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin said a dive team recovered the body of 22-year-old James Dale Leigh of the Sand Valley community from a pond on Monday. Witnesses said he drowned when a portion of the pond's rain-soaked bank collapsed while he was walking on it.

About three dozen residents in Alabama have been forced to flee their homes or be rescued from vehicles on washed out roads.

At least two people were missing, including a Tennessee man who went swimming in an overflowing ditch on a $5 dare and a 15-year-old Georgia teen who never returned from a swim in the surging Chattooga River.

The storm came after days of rain pounded most of the region and saturated the soil. Some parts of Georgia have had more than 20 inches since Friday.

"Any rain that fell has no place to go," said Georgia climatologist David Stooksbury. "This rainfall on top of already saturated soils really made the situation worse."

Many parts of north Georgia have experienced "historic" amounts of rain well in excess of so-called 100-year predictions, which describe a storm with the likelihood of happening once every century, said Stooksbury. The downpours come just months after much of the region emerged from an epic drought that plagued the region since 2007.

As the storm front rumbled through west Georgia, it turned a normally docile creek into a surging headwater that tore apart 2-year-old Preston Slade Crawford's mobile home around 2 a.m. The boy's body wasn't found until hours later, but his parents had been rescued as another son, age 1, clung to his mother's arms in the county west of Atlanta.

Crews in northwest Georgia worked furiously to shore up a levee that had been breached and was in danger of failing along the Chattooga River. Hundreds were evacuated in the small town of Trion, and inmate crews were piling sandbags along the levee wall.

"It's a grave situation for us," said Lamar Canada, Chattooga County's emergency management director.

Anxiety is rising with the floodwaters across North Georgia. Rains have been relentless. Some areas have seen 20 inches fall just since Saturday.

Rushing waters swept cars off low-lying roads, killing at least four people. Witness Emanuel Istudor told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann he watched his neighbor float off in her minivan.

"I couldn't see more than three feet in front of me," Istudor said. "it was just complete chaos. I couldn't imagine what she went through especially in the last moments of her life.

It wasn't just Georgia. Near Henderson, North Carolina, the Mud Creek poured over its banks. Bibb County, Alabama saw a foot of rain in 24 hours.

Across much of the Southeast, torrential rains cancelled school, made commutes impossible and stranded people like Johnny Roberts, who watched his Jeep disappear from his driveway.

"I just watched the jeep just float all the way through the river," he told Strassmann. "I guess the water was so high and powerful it just flipped it right over."

Forecasters issued flood alerts for parts of Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia as more rain fell after days of storms that have saturated the ground. As many as 20 inches had fallen in three days in parts of the Atlanta area.

School closings and delays occurred in parts of Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama.

The "persistent tropical system" that has been hovering over the region for the last week could dump another four inches on north Georgia overnight Monday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Frank Taylor. Rains were expected to taper off starting Wednesday.

Rescuers in Tennessee were searching for a Chattanooga man swept into a culvert Sunday after boasting that he could swim across a flooded ditch alongside his house for $5. The man's nephew identified him as 46-year-old Sylvester Kitchens.

Firefighters rescued another man who also tried to swim the ditch. Albert Miller was found clinging to a fence in the water near where the water empties into the culvert, said Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner. Miller was taken to the hospital with symptoms of hypothermia.

The nephew, 22-year-old Leslie Townsend, said Kitchens was swept away when he tried to grab onto a garden hose that Townsend threw to him.

Emergency workers in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville found a woman dead in her vehicle after it was swept off a road by flooding Monday, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge of the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services. The woman was identified as Seydi Burciaga, 39, who was returning home from work.

"In my 22 years in the fire department here in Gwinnett we have not experienced flooding to this degree," Rutledge said.

West of Atlanta, Douglas County was hit by as much as a foot of rain. Flooding blocked more than 45 roads in the county and caused two deaths in separate accidents. A man's body was found after his car was swept into a creek, while a woman's body was found elsewhere after floodwaters washed out the road she was driving on, said county spokesman Wes Tallon. Neither was identified.

Tallon said rescuers were searching for three others who were in the woman's car.

He said emergency officials have rescued dozens of people stranded in their homes and cars by rising waters.

"We're using everything we can get our hands on," Tallon said. "Everything from boats to Jet Skis to ropes to ladders."

WGCL-TV interviewed residents who had to abandon their apartment building Saturday night because of flooding.

"I woke up, and I started screaming," Sayya Sayed told CBS affiliate WGCL-TV. "I looked outside, and there was so much water."

Earlier Monday, authorities in next-door Carroll County scoured the area for a toddler who went missing at around 4 a.m. after the storms dumped more than a foot of rain in the area, said Carroll County Emergency Management Director Tim Padgett.

In Kentucky, thunderstorms dumped about 4 inches of rain on parts of Louisville in a single day Sunday. Flash flooding caused fire and rescue personnel to make more than a dozen runs to assist people stranded in vehicles, said Louisville fire department spokesman Sgt. Salvador Melendez. A fire that broke out Sunday night at an apartment complex appeared to be caused by lightning, Melendez said. A firefighter suffered burns to his neck, he said.

Water rose as high as window-level on some houses in North Carolina's Polk County, forcing emergency officials to evacuate homes along a seven-mile stretch of road. Flooding in more than 20 counties in western North Carolina closed roads, delayed school and forced evacuations.

The rolling storms shut down school systems in five north Georgia counties. Water also flooded homes, washed out some roads and left standing pools on some busy metro Atlanta highways.

Flash flood watches were issued Monday for much of Alabama, where the National Weather Service said as much as a foot of rain fell in less than 24 hours in some northern parts of the state. School officials in Bibb County, about 50 miles southwest of Birmingham, called off classes for fear their 3,600 students wouldn't be able to get home later Monday.

Trisha Palmer of the National Weather Service said that as much as 20 inches of rain has fallen on the metro Atlanta area since Friday. Parts of Douglas and Carroll counties have received more than a foot of rain in the last day alone, she said.

"It's a mess all over," said Lisa Janak of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.