A home is shown after a possible tornado moved through the area Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, near Woodstock, Ga. One person was injured in a possible tornado in Cherokee County as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee crossed the state Monday afternoon, authorities said. Lt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee County Sheriff's department said the storm toppled trees, snapped power lines and damaged homes near Woodstock. He said the victim was taken to the hospital but the person's condition was not known. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
ATLANTA — The slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped rain across the South and whipped up twisters that damaged dozens of Georgia homes as the system pushed farther inland on Monday. Several people were swept away by floodwaters.
In Mississippi, a man was drowned while trying to cross a swollen creek, while authorities called off the search for a missing swimmer presumed dead off Alabama. Another man was missing after trying to cross a creek in suburban Atlanta.
Tornadoes that caused minor damage were also reported in Alabama, where rain was expected to taper off overnight. Southern cities that reported numerous roads closed by flooding included Birmingham, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn. More than 9 inches of rain had fallen in Chattanooga, setting a 24-hour record for rainfall.
"It's been such a persistent rain that it has been causing some problems in low-lying and flood-prone areas, said National Weather Service forecaster David Gaffin, who expected remnants of Lee to linger in Tennessee through Tuesday.
Suspected twisters ripped off siding and shingles and sent trees crashing through roofs in Cherokee County, about 30 miles north of Atlanta. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said about 100 homes were damaged there. One man was taken to the hospital with superficial injuries after he was hit by flying debris.
Mickey Swims and his wife hid in the basement of their house in Woodstock, Ga., as an apparent tornado passed.
"I heard it and saw the trees go around and around," Swims said. "I knew when I heard it that if it touched down, it was going to be bad."
Swims owns the Dixie Speedway, where he estimated the storm caused $500,000 worth of damage. That includes about 2,000 feet of chain-link fence uprooted from its concrete base, walls blown out of a bathroom and concession stands and tractor-trailer trucks turned into mangled messes.
To the southeast in Norcross, a man was swept away when he tried to cross a swollen creek between apartment complexes, said Gwinnett County Fire Battalion Chief Dan Rowland. The search was called off at nightfall, and body recovery operations were going to start Tuesday morning. A companion to the missing man was caught in the creek but managed to make it out of the water.
In other parts of the state, six families were evacuated from a Catoosa County apartment building because of flooding, while slick roads caused an 18-car pileup in Monroe County, said agency spokeswoman Lisa Janak. No one was injured in those cases.
"Tropical Storm Lee really made a mess in Georgia," she said.
In areas of Louisiana and Mississippi that took the brunt of the storm over the weekend, thousands remained without power. Lee's center came ashore Sunday in Louisiana, dumping up to a foot of rain in parts of New Orleans and other areas. Despite some street flooding, officials said New Orleans' 24-pump flood control system was doing its job.
Heavy rain continued to fall in Mississippi on Monday, and a swollen creek near an apartment complex in Jackson prompted officials to move 45 families into a storm shelter. In Louisiana's Livingston Parish, about 200 families were evacuated because of flooding.
The man who died in Mississippi, 57-year-old John Howard Anderson Jr., had been in a car with two other people trying to cross a rain-swollen creek on Sunday night. Tishomingo County Coroner Mack Wilemon said Anderson was outside of the car and couldn't hold onto a rope thrown by a would-be rescuer.
Jonathan Weeks, a 48-year-old salesman from Plantersville who owns a vacation home nearby, said he helped pull two people to shore and tried to save Anderson.
Weeks said he and his wife saw a van crossing the creek, and he happened to have a rope in the tool box of his truck.
"It all happened so fast. They were in there trying to get out and panicking. The power was out so everything was dark," Weeks recalled in a phone interview Monday.
"We threw them a rope and tied it to a tree," Weeks said. "We got two of them to the bank and were trying to help the driver. We had him on the rope and were trying to pull him in, but I don't think he was able to hold on."
Elsewhere, the heavy rain made for a dud of a Labor Day holiday as Gulf Coast beaches mostly cleared of tourists. On Monday morning, the main road on Alabama's Dauphin Island was flooded and covered with sand, jellyfish and foam washed in by Lee. Customers trickled in to the town's largest store on what should have been a busy day.
"It's been kind of boring," said Tabitha Miller, a clerk at Ship and Shore. "It's not killing us though since we're the only gig in town."
In Gulf Shores to the west, surf churned up by the storm proved treacherous. The Coast Guard suspended its search for a swimmer who went missing Sunday. Local authorities were transitioning to efforts to find his body, said Maj. Anthony Lowery of the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office.
The storm was expected to move up the Tennessee River Valley on Tuesday, and forecasters have warned people to be on the lookout for tornadoes. Several already had been reported, including one that damaged five homes in Harrison County.
The rain had stopped out in the Gulf of Mexico, allowing oil and gas production platforms and rigs to look for damage and get operations kick started again on Monday. Federal regulators said evacuations had shut in about 61 percent of oil production and 46 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf.
Residents in Lee's wake are worrying about the effects of soggy ground. Part of a levee holding back a lake in Mississippi's Rankin County gave way, endangering some homes and a sod farm. Rankin County Road Manager George Bobo said officials could order evacuations of the few homes if the situation gets worse. The indention left by the levee slide didn't go all the way through to the water, though.
Sharon Spears, a 54-year-old special education teacher, stood in her front yard Monday looking up at the red dirt exposed from the levee slide.
"I'm concerned," Spears said. "I won't sleep any tonight."
Sandy Shamburger said a full breach would ruin his sod farm.
"It would be devastating. It would probably be the end of Rankin Sod," he said.