Saturday, March 15, 2008

Possible Twister Rips Apart Downtown Atlanta; Stronger Storms Coming

Heavy Damage In Downtown Atlanta;
Storm Damage Heavy In East Atlanta, Cabbagetown; Home Show Cancelled; SEC Tournament Moved To Tech
A severe storm ripped through downtown Atlanta last night, damaging skyscrapers, hotels and two major sports arenas filled with thousands of pro and college basketball fans.Mayor Shirley Franklin said it was a tornado that caused the damage, but that was not confirmed by the National Weather Service.An even larger storm system was expected to move through north Georgia starting at daybreak, bringing with it heavy rains, high winds and lightning, according to WSB-TV Channel 2 Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns.The Atlanta Police Department reported numerous injuries in downtown Atlanta area. At least 20 people were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital -- two of them were firefighters. One person is suffering life threatening injuries. No fatalities have been reported.The powerful winds tore the front off a parking facility near CNN Center and scattered sheets of metal across Centennial Olympic Park. Strands of pink building insulation hung from trees in the downtown park like Spanish moss."It looks like a given it was a tornado," said Burns.

Dozens of ambulances lined the streets around the park. Exits from interstates to the downtown area were closed because of glass still falling from buildings."It looked like a tornado to us, but we really didn't see it coming," said one man who is in Atlanta for a dental convention.The Omni Hotel was evacuated. Curtains could be seen hanging outside of the blown out windows. Crumpled pieces of luggage that were possibly pulled out of the windows were found in the street.At the SunTrust Bank Building dozens of windows were blown out, showering the streets below with broken glass. A taxi cab was picked up, spun around and dropped onto a sidewalk alongside Centennial Park.A parking deck attendant told Channel 2 photographer Alvin Bryant that she had to hold on to a light pole when the winds hit and was "flying like a flag" outside the Georgia Dome.

  • SLIDESHOW: Downtown Atlanta Storm Damage Pics

  • The windows of vehicles in the area were also blown out.Inside CNN Center, water poured through damage in the ceiling into the building's atrium, the network reported on its web site. Glass shattered, and parts of the building filled with dust.Power was knocked out in parts of downtown Atlanta, leaving 10,000 customers without power.Karone Edge, 23, was relaxing inside the waiting room of the Westin Hotel, also downtown, with two friends and saw debris flying by the window. After watching the glass shatter in front of him, he said everyone began to run, and he fell, scraping his arms and legs."I thought the building was falling like a terrorist attack," said Edge, who was walking around with a bloodied sock.A fireman outside CNN Center said three people in the vicinity had been transported to hospitals. One of them was a child with head injuries. He said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.The quarterfinal basketball game between Alabama and Mississippi State at the Georgia Dome was halted after the roof was torn, but resumed after a delay of nearly an hour. The high winds caused catwalks to sway and insulation to fall from the roof as fans left their seats and huddled in the concourse looking for safety, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.The set of giant screens that hang over the court swayed for 10 minutes after the storm blew through. Dome officials said the roof remained intact, but panels along the side of the arena ripped, allowing wind to blow through the building.The teams were sent to the locker room while those who remained at their seats looked anxiously toward the roof. The game was stopped with Mississippi State leading 64-61 with 2:11 left in overtime.Mississippi State held on to beat Alabama 69-67 after the delay.A roaring noise was heard inside when the storm struck. Several fans and at least one reporter on press row said metal bolts and washers fell from the ceiling, though there were no immediate reports of injuries. A pipe ripped a hole in the roof. In the Cabbagetown neighborhood, a loft apartment building called The Stacks -- built in an old cotton mill -- had severe damage to one corner, and appeared to have major roof damage. Fire officials said it "pancaked," and they were uncertain whether all the occupants had escaped. Darlys Walker, property manager for the lofts, told WSB-TV there was one minor injury. Taylor Morris, a 29-year-old Delta Air Lines employee who lives near the lofts, said he and his girlfriend were at home and took shelter in the bathroom when the storm passed over in a matter of 15-20 seconds. "The whole house was shaking," he said. "We didn't know what was going on." He said shingles and a sheet of plywood were ripped from his roof and tossed into a neighbor's tree. May said a vacant building also collapsed, with no apparent injuries. Weiss said search and rescue teams from five metro-Atlanta communities were called in as a precaution. He said the teams are equipped to handle rescues in collapsed buildings.Melody and Brad Sorrells were at home with their two children when the storm hit. The family was in their living room when Melody Sorrells said she heard the huge pine in their front yard crash into their house. "I saw it falling and we ran into the back bedrooms in the closet," she said, while turning to look at the massive trunk blocking the front door. "I feel sick." The family escaped out of the back of the house. Brad Sorrells said the winds sounded like a roaring train. "It was a tornado," he said, with arms folded.

    Source: WSB TV

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