Heavy rain and damaging winds from Tropical Storm Zeta swept through North Georgia on Thursday morning, leaving at least three people dead and nearly 1 million in the dark.

Zeta made U.S. landfall Wednesday afternoon as a Category 2 hurricane, lashing the Louisiana coast with 110-mph winds. It weakened to a tropical storm by the time it reached Georgia, with winds gusting at 51 mph in Atlanta and 55 mph in Rome early Thursday.

The worst of the storm tore through the region between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.

In Cherokee County and Gwinnett County, the storm proved deadly.

A man in Cherokee was killed when a tree fell on a mobile home in a community off Bells Ferry Road, authorities said. Later in the afternoon, two people were found dead in their bed in Gwinnett after a tree landed on their home.

While power has been restored to thousands across the state, more than 350,000 remain in the dark Friday morning. As of 7:30 a.m. Friday, Georgia Power was reporting outages for nearly 230,000 customers.

The utility said it was working to restore power to 95% of impacted customers by Sunday night, but it expects “the great majority” of customers to be restored before then. Its restoration efforts are hampered by Zeta’s widespread destruction across the Southeast, as crews are stretched thin.

Another 125,000 Georgia EMC customers were without power, the majority of those in metro Atlanta.

Zeta’s winds and rain cleared the state late Thursday morning, but reports of storm damage are still rolling in 24 hours later. All across the metro area, fallen trees and downed wires temporarily blocked interstates, disabled traffic signals and shut down surface streets.

Southwest Atlanta resident Jennifer Winfrey said she was sitting in her den when the wind from Tropical Storm Zeta picked up about 4:30 a.m. She closed her eyes and prayed for protection for her family and neighbors on Beecher Road.

“The next thing I heard was, ‘Crack. Crack. Boom,’” she said.

Her neighbor’s mature tree uprooted and fell in her yard, missing her house but crushing her late father’s Ford F-150. The truck held sentimental value for Winfrey. As a child, the sight of the old pickup coming up the road meant everything was going to be all right, she said.

It was swallowed by branches and leaves Thursday morning.

“A good man drove that truck,” Winfrey said.

Homeowner Steven Schuerman (left) evaluates the damage after his tree fell on Jennifer and Darrell Winfrey’s truck (right) in the 2300 block of Beecher Road in southwest Atlanta.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

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Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Winfrey said she is grateful that no one was hurt, and that her family does not have to look for a new place to live in the middle of a pandemic.

“The loss of human life and time, that’s something you can’t get back,” she said. “But the car, we can replace that.”

According to Atlanta fire, at least four families were rescued after trees fell on their homes or vehicles. In northwest Atlanta, a large tree trapped a man in his third-floor bedroom when it came crashing down on a home on Brookview Drive. He became pinned between the tree, the bed and the floor, fire spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford told AJC.com.

“Just because the wind has subsided somewhat does not mean that trees won’t continue to fall throughout the morning as we continue with the storm passing through,” Stafford said at the time.

Atlanta fire crews worked for about 40 minutes to free a man trapped in his third-floor bedroom after a tree came crashing down on a home on Brookview Drive.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

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Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

In Gwinnett, officials said calls about wind-related incidents began pouring in just before 5 a.m. One person was taken to a hospital to be checked for injuries after a tree fell on a house on Smoke Hill Lane in the Hoschton area, according to Gwinnett fire.

Countywide, crews worked to clear downed wires at 12 locations and 10 trees that fell on buildings. Reports of damage kept coming in throughout the morning, fire spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

DeKalb County officials said they got calls about more than 50 trees down across roads, including multiple locations on I-20, and several damaged traffic signals. They had urged residents to stay home Thursday morning to allow crews to get to work.

Zeta even impacted operations at polling places, schools and COVID-19 testing sites in metro Atlanta.

Metro Atlanta is waking up to chilly air Friday morning. The region has swapped a tropical storm for a cold front, Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brian Monahan said.

“It is cool this morning, behind that system, a big change from yesterday’s tropical air that was in place," Monahan said Friday. “We’ve got temperatures down in the 40s and 50s.”

Cooler weather will carry North Georgia into the weekend, and it will stay dry, according to Channel 2.

— Staff writer Alexis Stevens and photojournalist John Spink contributed to this article.

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