ATLANTA – A severe storm including a possible tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta on Friday night, injuring several people, causing at least two buildings to collapse and damaging skyscrapers, hotels and two major sports arenas that were filled with thousands of pro and college basketball fans.
The National Weather Service said a possible tornado hit downtown, where the wind sucked furniture and luggage from smashed hotel-room windows, stripped siding and signs from buildings and mangled streetlights. The streets were littered with broken glass, and stunned fans poured from the arenas and hotels.
Most of the damage was concentrated in downtown Atlanta, police spokesman Ronald Campbell said. He said authorities blocked off roads around the CNN Center, where heavy debris filled the streets. A chair from the skyscraper’s lobby sat in the middle of the street, flanked by cars crushed by fallen debris.
A firefighter outside the skyscraper said three people in the vicinity had been transported to hospitals, including a child with head injuries. He said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
Buzz Weiss, a spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said nine people were taken to hospitals, including a firefighter.
On its Web site, CNN said its headquarters building sustained ceiling damage, allowing water to pour into the atrium, and windows shattered in the CNN.com newsroom and the company’s library.
At the Georgia Dome, where Mississippi State was playing the University of Alabama in a Southeastern Conference Tournament basketball game, catwalks swayed and insulation fell from the roof, sending fans fleeing toward the exits and the teams to their locker rooms.
“I thought it was a tornado or a terrorist attack,” said Mississippi State guard Ben Hansbrough.