ATLANTA (AP) – A severe storm ripped through downtown Atlanta on Friday night, damaging skyscrapers, hotels and two major sports arenas filled with thousands of pro and college basketball fans.

National Weather Service officials were unsure if a tornado had touched down, but wind was clocked at up to 60 mph as the storm moved through the city.

Numerous windows were broken at CNN Center.

At the Georgia Dome, where Mississippi State was playing the University of Alabama in a Southeastern Tournament basketball game, catwalks swayed and insulation fell from the roof, sending fans fleeing toward the exits and the teams to their locker rooms.

The game resumed after a delay of about an hour.

It wasn’t immediately known if a tornado struck the 16-year-old building, though a roaring noise was heard inside as the storm moved through downtown Atlanta.

“I thought it was a tornado or a terrorist attack,” said Mississippi State guard Ben Hansbrough, who was guarding Alabama’s Mykal Riley when a rumbling noise was heard from above.

Both teams stopped and looked toward the Teflon-coated Fiberglas fabric roof, which is designed to flex slightly during high wind, but was rippling heavily in the storm, much like waves rolling toward the shore.

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.

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.

There was also damage at nearby Philips Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks were playing the Los Angeles Clippers

Georgia Power Co. spokeswoman Consuela Monroe said about 10,000 customers had lost power in the Atlanta area.

Terrance Evans, 23, valet at Omni Hotel, which adjoins Philips arena, said he was standing outside and was about to park a car and took cover when the storm hit.

“It was crazy,” Evans said. “There was a lot of windows breaking and stuff falling. You would hear a big boom.”

Karone Edge, 23, were 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.

AP-ES-03-14-08 2322EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.