Sunday, March 16, 2008
ATLANTA — Two people in rural northwest Georgia are dead and dozens injured after a series of severe storms moved through the state, producing the first-ever tornado to hit downtown Atlanta.
A woman was killed in Polk County early Saturday afternoon when a storm demolished her home and threw her and her husband into a field, while an elderly man in neighboring Floyd County was killed by flying debris as he sat in his home, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Officials have not released the victims’ names.
Calls to the Polk and Floyd County sheriff’s departments were not immediately returned.
National Weather Service officials were expected to be in both counties later Sunday to determine whether the damage was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds, meteorologist Vaughn Smith said.
In Atlanta, crews began cleaning up debris and broken glass Saturday from the tornado that struck the city with little warning the previous night. The storm cut a 6-mile path of destruction through the city with winds gusting up to 130 miles per hour, leaving homes crushed by centuries-old trees and numerous windows shattered in high-rise office buildings and hotels.
In neighborhoods just east of downtown — like the historic Cabbagetown where a loft apartment building partially collapsed and homes were destroyed — residents ducked under tables and hid in closets as the twister made its way through the city.
“It was just like everyone says it is — the proverbial freight train,” said Carol Grizzel as she cleaned debris out of her yard.
Some of the cleanup in Atlanta was delayed by a series of strong storms that moved through the state Saturday, bringing torrential rain, high winds and quarter-sized hail.
Residents had about eight minutes of warning before the twister struck downtown Friday night, weather officials said. The tornado, classified as an EF2 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, lasted about 20 minutes.
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