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March 15, 2008

Severe weather comes to CNN

Posted: 12:22 PM ET

  Yikes.  Talk about a role reversal.  Often, we scramble to get out in the field to report on severe weather - at some risk and hardship.  (Full disclosure:  I'm the Management Guy who usually stays behind and approves the travel expense reports.)

 Friday night, the severe weather made a house call at CNN.  The storm, pegged by the National Weather Service as an EF-2 tornado,  descended upon downtown Atlanta, putting a scare into attendees at two major sporting events and a major exposition.  At least twenty homes were destroyed near downtown.  And the evening staff in the CNN Newsroom and had an interesting time, to say the least.

CNN anchors and reporters who were nearby went into the drill:   Report for work when there's news.  Don Lemon reported from the debris-strewn street outside the CNN Center, near Centennial Olympic Park.  Rob Marciano manned the Weather Center - about twenty feet away from where a newly-minted hole in the roof had drenched desks and computers.  Veronica de la Cruz checked on casualties at Atlanta's largest downtown hospital.   And, with a touch of supreme irony, Cal Perry, fresh from his Day Job as CNN's Baghdad Bureau Chief, reported on destroyed homes and buildings on the streets of Atlanta.

As they sort through the damage, several things mark this as an extraordinary storm.  Maybe not a huge one, but:

An EF-2 tornado, reportedly on the ground for up to six miles, tore through a central city.  It passed over two arenas with a combined 30 to 40 thousand people inside, then over office buildings, restaurants, hotels, and neighborhoods.   No one died.

Despite a few nervous moments as college basketball fans watched tons of catwalks, cables, and a massive scoreboard sway back and forth, the teflon-covered fabric roof of the Georgia Dome held.  A tip of the hat to some unnamed engineers and architects is in order.

It's the first time ever that Mother Nature has gone Downtown in Atlanta.  One of the most badly damaged places is the ill-starred Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts.  The unoccupied top floors collapsed in part of the Lofts, about a mile east of downtown.  The historic buildings were also the site of a spectacular 1999 fire and a dramatic helicopter rescue.

 Peter Dykstra  Executive Producer, Science-Tech & Weather

Filed under: Uncategorized

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