Possible Tornado Hits Downtown Atlanta
Last Modified: 3/15/2008 12:59:23 AM
Mayor Shirley Franklin has urged people to stay away from downtown Atlanta.
"I strongly urge everyone to stay away from the downtown area. Please let emergency services personnel do their job," said Mayor Franklin. "We have been very fortunate not to have a fatality at this point, and it is imperative that people stay out of the area and let public safety personnel evacuate people and make the area safe."
The storm plowed through Atlanta at 9:30 Friday night, extensively damaging an area encompassing Ralph McGill to Edgewood; Spring through Piedmont and Centennial Olympic Parkway to Moreland.
Officials have warned news media at and near the Cotton Mill Lofts on Boulevard to move away from the building, as they are afraid that a portion of the building may collapse.
According to 11Alive's Catherine Kim, officials said there is significant damage to the front of the Omni Hotel, as it faces Centennial Olympic Park.
SEC officials said they are examining options, in the event they need to move the remaining games of the SEC basketball tournament out of the Georgia Dome. Options include Philips Arena, and the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Mayor Shirley Franklin is expected to hold a news conference within the next hour -- 11Alive and 11Alive.com will carry coverage of the news conference live.
11Alive Chief Meteorologist Paul Ossmann said that more severe storms had been forecast for north Georgia for Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned to 11Alive and 11Alive.com for updates and details as they become available.
A possible tornado ripped two holes in the side of the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta during the Southeastern Conference tournament, halting the Alabama-Mississippi State and sending fans fleeing for the exits.
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.
According to 11Alive's Fred Kalil, there was a roaring sound heard from inside the 16-year-old structure when the storm struck.
11Alive's Catherine Kim, reporting from outside the Georgia Dome, described what she called a "combat zone" in terms of the amount of damage. She has said that there are unconfirmed reports of many injuries inside the Georgia Dome.
Kim, walking past the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta, noted significant debris along Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Marietta Street.
Many windows in the CNN Center and Omni Hotel in downtown Atlanta have been blown out.
Atlanta Fire officials said that at least seven to ten people were transported to local hospitals from that location.
11Alive producer Tracey Carmony said that much of the damage at the Georgia Dome is near Gate C, including shattered windows and doors between the Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center.
Atlanta officials said at least eight people were transported from CNN Center to Grady Memorial Hospital, and at least one other person to Atlanta Medical Center. At least one person was reported in critical condition.
EMS workers were also called to the Georgia Pacific building in downtown Atlanta with reports of flying glass and an unknown number of injuries there.
Trees and debris has been reported down across much of downtown Atlanta. Georgia State University police are reporting debris down on their campus.
Atlanta police said that a structure may have collapsed on Edgewood Avenue near Butler. There are other reports of damage to buildings in and just east of downtown Atlanta.
Police said that windows have been blown out in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown Atlanta as well.
A vacant building to the north of CNN Center has at least partially collapsed, according to Atlanta fire officials.
A National Weather Service-trained spotter and police officer contacted 11Alive News, and said from his 10th floor room in the Atlanta Hilton, he saw a funnel cloud pass over the downtown area.
He said his room faces to the west, and said the funnel cloud was just to the south by "a couple of blocks," and moving to the southeast. He said it was well-illuminated by the downtown lights, and accompanied by a "large amount of debris, flying in a circular pattern" above the level of his room.
Officials said that plenty of damage has been noted downtown and in nearby areas, and "a number of injuries."
SEC officials said the later game, between Georgia and Kentucky will not be played on Friday night.
According to officials at Grady Memorial Hospital, some windows were blown out, and they were working off of emergency power at 11:30 p.m.
11Alive's Jerry Carnes said a portion of the roof at the Cotton Mill condominiums on Boulevard was ripped off of the building in Friday's storm. There is no word on how many injuries occurred there, although, according to Carnes, ambulances have been seen leaving the area.
There are reports of at least one firefighter there who has a broken ankle suffered while trying to help residents there.
MARTA reported damage at the King Memorial station, but said that MARTA trains were running on time.
Georgia Power reported about 19,000 residents without power, mostly in the city of Atlanta, along MLK Drive and through the center of the city.
City of Atlanta officials said there has been extensive damage through the downtown area, and at least nine injuries, one of them critically. They said that no fatalities have been reported from the storm.
Officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport said that no damage was reported at the world's busiest airport, and that the worst of the storms stayed to the north of that area.