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Published: Sunday, 3/16/2008

Atlanta storm damage pegged at $150 million

Downed power lines and debris are everywhere since a storm hit the downtown Atlanta area around 9 p.m. Friday night. Downed power lines and debris are everywhere since a storm hit the downtown Atlanta area around 9 p.m. Friday night.
JOHN AMIS / AP Enlarge

ATLANTA - Atlanta residents and tens of thousands of visitors awoke yesterday to closed streets, downed trees, damaged buildings, and canceled events after a tornado swept through the city's downtown late Friday night. Damage from the tornado was estimated to exceed $150 million.

The tornado cut a six-mile path through downtown Atlanta, smashing hundreds of windows in and around the CNN Center, blowing furniture and luggage out of hotel rooms, and crumbling part of an apartment building.

At least 27 people were hurt, though no injuries were believed to be life-threatening and no injuries were reported at two arenas where thousands of fans were watching basketball games.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin declared a state of emergency early yesterday, and by midafternoon more storms were rolling through the area.

Storms killed two people in northwest Georgia, emergency management officials said.

Crews hauled broken glass and furniture out of streets in downtown Atlanta, where all events scheduled for yesterday were canceled, including the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue promised to "continue to utilize every resource at our disposal, including asking our federal partners for assistance, if necessary, to mitigate the impact of this severe weather."

State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said the bulk of the $150 million damage occurred at the Georgia World Congress Center, where windows were shattered, seats were scattered, and portions of the ceiling sustained damage.

John Heid, a spokesman for Allstate Insurance, said it was too early to know the financial impact of the storms on private property owners.

Mayor Franklin warned people to stay out of the hardest-hit areas of the city - downtown, Vine City, Cabbagetown, and the Cotton Mill lofts.

Georgia Power workers were out in force trying to restore electricity to 10,000 customers who were still without power.

The National Weather Service declared Friday night's tornado a category F2, with the strongest winds reaching 135 mph. The tornado, 200 yards at its widest, left a path of damage six miles long.

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