UNDATED - A fast-moving storm system packing tornadoes (at least one confirmed in Georgia), hail and lightning blew through the South, uprooting trees, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing at least eight people, six of them in Georgia.
The storms were part of a system that cut a wide swath from the Mississippi River across the Southeast to Georgia and the Carolinas on Monday and early Tuesday. Drivers dodged debris during the morning commute in Atlanta, where one person was killed when a tree fell on his car. Felled trees killed at least two drivers elsewhere.
Around the region, the National Weather Service was investigating reports of at least 20 possible tornadoes, while the system had moved over the Atlantic Ocean by late Tuesday morning. With the sun emerging, workers around the region climbed polls to mend power lines, officers directed traffic under dark traffic lights and chainsaws could be heard in many places including at Augusta National golf course. Practice rounds for the Masters golf tournament were delayed 45 minutes Tuesday.
In central Georgia, a father and his young son were killed when a tree fell onto a home in Butts County, Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lisa Janak said. The sheriff's office there said the 28-year-old man, Alix Bonhomme Jr., and the 4-year-old boy, Alix III, were killed early Tuesday when a tree limb crashed onto a bed where they were sleeping.
The child's mother, Marcie Moorer, and the couple's younger son, Iysic, 3, were able to escape.
``I'm still in shock. It hasn't hit me yet,'' said Moorer, who was at a relative's home late Tuesday morning, still wearing her pajamas as her youngest son rode a tricycle nearby.
Moorer's stepfather, Bennie Battle, said he was down the street from the couple's home as the storm tore through.
``It was just a lot of wind and lightning,'' he said. ``It was like being in the middle of a laser show.''
He heard a knock on the door at the height of the storm. It was a neighbor coming to tell him that a tree had crashed onto his stepdaughter's home.
Bonhomme ``was holding his son in his arms when it happened,'' Battle said. ``He was trying to protect his son.''
Bonhomme worked two jobs to support the family, Battle said. The son ``was as sweet as he could be. He was just so lovable,'' said Battle.
Jackson Mayor Charlie Brown said the storm's devastation was the worst the community had seen in 30 or 40 years.
``I would say weeks, a minimum of weeks for us to be able to clean up our community,'' Brown said.
Farther south, a 45-year-old man was found dead under debris after a mobile home in Dodge County was ripped from its foundation by a tornado, authorities said.
In south Georgia's Colquitt County, officials said Ronnie Taylor, 56, an employee of the county Roads and Bridges Department, was killed when he struck a large oak tree in the middle of the road as he was driving to work early Tuesday.
Also, the Georgia Department of Corrections said Robert Kincaid Jr., a state inmate being housed in the Colquitt County Prison, was killed Tuesday morning during storm cleanup. It was not immediately clear if weather was to blame for his death.
In DeKalb County east of Atlanta, meteorologists said 1-inch hail and storms packed high winds of 30 to 50 mph in some places Monday. Hundreds of lightning strikes were reported and emergency officials say an unidentified Irwin County man was killed when a tree struck his home.
In Memphis, fire officials said an 87-year-old man found dead in his home Monday was electrocuted by a downed power line.
In southern Mississippi, a 21-year-old man was killed when his car struck a tree that had fallen across a road, Copiah County coroner Ellis Stuart said.
Power outages were reported in several states, including Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. In Georgia alone, more than 200,000 customers still without power by midday Tuesday.
In western Kentucky, seven people working at a plant suffered minor injuries Monday when a possible tornado hit. The storm tore out a roof and damaged the walls. About three-dozen other people who usually work in the stricken area of the Toyoda Gosei Automotive Sealing were on lunch break at the time, Christian County Emergency Management Director Randy Graham said.
``We're fortunate not to have any serious injuries or death,'' he said.
Strong winds ripped away part of the roof of an elementary school gymnasium in Ashland City, Tenn., but officials said no children were injured.
The storms came on the heels of the 37th anniversary of the worst recorded outbreak of tornadoes in U.S. history, in which 148 twisters hit 13 states across the South and Midwest on April 3-4 in 1974.
In northeast Georgia, emergency workers in Ellijay were rescuing people from downed trees; and Gwinnett County firefighters say they responded to 87 incidents between 11:30 Monday and 1:30 Tuesday morning... including downed power lines and downed trees, with some of the trees coming to rest on houses.
Hall County reported only five calls of any significance, according to Fire and EMS Chief David Kimbrell.
At 10:10, there was a tree and power lines down in East Hall on Gaines Mill road; at 11:25, a transformer was down and on fire; and at 11:25 on Rafe Court, smoke from a heating and air conditioning unit set off an alarm. After midnight, Kimbrell says, lightning strikes knocked out a satellite dish and caused some problems inside a house on Jim Hood Road and caused damage to the roof and electrical system at the Food Mart on Winder Highway.
Also in our area, thousands of Jackson EMC customers were without power at the height of the storm. (See separate story.)
(AccessNorthGa.com's Jeremy Taylor and Ken Stanford contributed to this story.)