Paramedics found the 4-year-old boy, Alix Bonhomme III, wrapped in the arms of his father, Alix Bonhomme Jr., in a sight so wrenching that even grizzled rescuers wept. A younger son in the bedroom wasn't hurt, nor was Bonhomme's fiancee, Marcie Moorer, who was sleeping in another room.
Moorer, who was still in pajamas hours later, said she couldn't fathom what happened when the storm rumbled through Jackson, a town about 45 miles south of Atlanta. Her 3-year-old son Iysic rode his tricycle around a relative's front yard as she looked on.
"I'm still in shock. It hasn't hit me yet," said a bleary-eyed Moorer, who was planning to marry Bonhomme in July.
Later she added: "I'm just happy I have Iysic. That's all I can think about."
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.
The National Weather Service had confirmed at least eight of the nearly two-dozen possible tornadoes it was investigating in several states, though the damage in Jackson was blamed on 60 mph winds that weren't part of a twister. The system that also knocked out power to hundreds of thousands had moved over the Atlantic Ocean by late morning.
In rural south Georgia, authorities said 45-year-old Christopher McNair was found dead under debris after a mobile home in Dodge County was ripped from its foundation by a tornado. Authorities say his body was thrown about 100 yards from the trailer, and three other people were injured.
An unidentified Irwin County man was killed when a tree struck his home, according to emergency officials. And 56-year-old Ronnie Taylor, a Colquitt County road worker, was killed when he struck a large oak tree in the middle of the road as he was driving to work early Tuesday.
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.
The Georgia Department of Corrections said Robert Kincaid Jr., a state inmate at the Colquitt County Prison, was killed Tuesday morning during storm cleanup when a tree fell on him.
Elsewhere, emergency officials were thankful the storm didn't do greater damage.
Strong winds ripped off part of the roof of an Ashland City, Tenn., elementary school gymnasium, but officials said no children were injured. Seven people working at a plant in western Kentucky were injured Monday when a possible tornado hit, but dozens of others were spared because they were on break at the time.
"We're fortunate not to have any serious injuries or death," Christian County Emergency Management Director Randy Graham said.
In Jackson, the mayor estimated it would take weeks -- or longer -- to clean the wreckage.
Bennie Battle, Moorer's stepfather, said he remembers the sky lighting up as the worst of the weather hit.
"It was just a lot of wind and lightning," said Battle, who lives down the street from Moorer. "It was like being in the middle of a laser show."