March 15, 2008
Posted: 12:35 PM ET
I am a weather producer here at CNN and today has been one wild ride! My day started about 12 hours ago when friends of mine called me to see what was going on in Atlanta. They were at the SEC Men's Championship Basketball tournament in the Georgia Dome when they heard loud noises from outside and saw the precariously-hanging scoreboard and scaffolds swaying from the ceiling. I had no idea there was anything going on and laughed at them a little, knowing my roommate there was terrified of thunderstorms. To my amazement, there was indeed a tornado warning for the metro Atlanta area at around 9:40PM Friday night. I gave them my synopsis of what they could expect, and so began my Saturday.
As I tuned in to coverage of the storm, I was amazed to see anchor Don Lemon standing in the middle of DOWNTOWN Atlanta with debris scattered about. Shards of glass, pieces of signs and rooftops, and tree branches littered the streets surrounding the CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park. Windows had been blown out all over the city, including the Omni Hotel and various other high rises, and the whole thing seemed like a dream. Thousands of visitors, in town for a number of events taking place this weekend, were forced out of their hotel rooms and into the lobbies and streets, attempting to make sense of what had just happened and trying to decide where they were going to spend the long night. Flooding was reported at the Georgia World Congress Center - an immense convention hall across the street from CNN Inside the CNN Center as a piece of the rooftop had been ripped away, allowing rainfall to spill into the atrium. This really was like a movie…
After only about 1 hour of sleep, I awoke to continued coverage of the “possible” tornado and eventually made my way towards Atlanta from my home in Athens, GA. When I came close enough to see the skyline, it looked the same as it always did…serene and beautiful. However, as I arrived in the downtown area, my mouth dropped when I saw the extent of the damage. I was shocked to see trash, glass, and twisted metal everywhere. As I walked through the roadblocks on Centennial Olympic Park, I took pictures on my cell phone and was careful to not walk underneath anything that might fall at the lightest gust of wind. The scene inside the CNN Center was shocking as well, with water still being mopped from the floors of the atrium
This was the first time I had ever seen an area affected by a tornado, nevertheless within a major metropolitan area. The weather is still wreaking havoc across northern Alabama and Georgia, with another line that affected the metro Atlanta area later in the morning, and more severe weather is expected again later in the afternoon. The damage that the Newsroom received has caused many to move to CNN International as the THIRD line of storms pass through the city. The biggest threat for the downtown areas is the glass and other debris being turned into projectiles as the wind picks them up and hurls them into the air. Well, I suppose I need to go now….we’re being rushed to CNN International until the storm passes. But have no fear…. Chad Myers–the Mayor–is here!
Sarah Dillingham, CNN Weather Producer
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