Tornado (shadow at left), after going through downtown Atlanta
|Duration||March 14-15, 2008|
|Tornadoes confirmed||45 confirmed|
|Max rating1||EF3 tornado|
|Duration of tornado outbreak2||24 hours, 7 minutes|
|Areas affected||Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina|
1Most severe tornado damage; see Enhanced Fujita scale2Time from first tornado to last tornado
A tornado caused widespread damage across downtown Atlanta, including to the CNN Center and to the Georgia Dome, where the 2008 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament was postponed. Other buildings that were damaged include the Georgia World Congress Center, Philips Arena (during an Atlanta Hawks game), and the Omni Hotel, which was evacuated after many windows were blown out. The Westin Peachtree Plaza suffered major window damage. The image of the building with all the windows blown out became famous and, for a time, was the symbol of the tornado. Centennial Olympic Park, SunTrust Plaza and historic Oakland Cemetery were also damaged.
One man was killed near downtown Atlanta and 30 others were injured. Two other deaths took place on March 15 in the northern Atlanta suburbs from the second, larger round of severe weather and tornadoes. In total, 45 tornadoes were confirmed over the 24-hour period from eastern Alabama to the Carolina coast, with most of the activity concentrated in the Metropolitan Atlanta area, the Central Savannah River Area and the Midlands of South Carolina.
In their 9:00 pm EDT outlook, the Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk of severe weather across portions of the southern United States from Oklahoma to Georgia, with a 2% risk area for tornadoes for the Atlanta area. A tornado warning was issued for Atlanta at 9:26 pm when the thunderstorm that caused the tornado was 6 miles (10 km) to the northwest of the downtown area, although no watches were in effect for the area due to the low probability and unusual isolated nature. The tornado drifted southward as it moved eastward, whereas most tornadic storms have a strong northward component along (or ahead of) a cold front. It also was unusual because it was not associated with such a squall line at all, but was an independent supercell drifting well ahead of the main storm system.
Another tornado outbreak struck the southeast the following day. A moderate risk for severe storms was issued early in the morning, and maintained through the afternoon. However, by mid afternoon, areas of east-central Georgia and central South Carolina were upgraded to a high risk of severe storms due to the tornado threat.
|List of reported tornadoes - Friday, March 14, 2008|
|EF2||Atlanta||Fulton, DeKalb||0138||6 miles (9.7 km)||1 death - See section on this tornado|
|List of reported tornadoes - Saturday, March 15, 2008|
|EF2||SE of Oneonta||Blount||1450||6 miles (9.7 km)||25 houses sustained major damage and many others had minor damage. One mobile home and many farm buildings and outbuildings were destroyed, killing many animals.|
|EF2||NE of Pleasant Gap||Cherokee||1600||3 miles (4.8 km)||Major damage to a roof of a house and a barn, as well as snapped pine trees.|
|EF3||Aragon area||Polk, Floyd, Bartow||1625||16 miles (26 km)||2 deaths - Large wedge tornado destroyed at least 20 houses and damaged hundreds of others. Thousands of trees were knocked down across three counties. Two others were injured.|
|EF0||Franklin Springs area||Franklin, Hart||1844||3 miles (4.8 km)||Tornado confirmed with widespread damage to trees and power lines. Major damage to a couple of houses and cattle barns.|
|EF1||NE of Gill||Lincoln, McCormick (SC)||2015||16 miles (26 km)||Many trees were knocked down.|
|EF2||SE of Fortsonia||Elbert||2019||7.3 miles (11.7 km)||Damage reported to several structures, including a roof blown off a house and a boat dock thrown in the air in Bobby Brown State Park.|
|EF1||N of Winfield||McDuffie, Columbia||2148||8 miles (13 km)||One mobile home was destroyed and several others damaged. Many trees were knocked down. Two people were injured.|
|EF0||W of Jackson||Butts||2215||3.25 miles (5 km)||A barn was destroyed and numerous trees were knocked down.|
|EF2||Matthews area||Jefferson, Burke||2215||19 miles (31 km)||Several mobile homes were destroyed and numerous houses were damaged, some by fallen trees.|
|EF1||SE of Waynesboro||Burke||2305||15 miles (24 km)||One house sustained moderate damage to the roof, windows and shingles. Several mobile homes were damaged.|
|EF2||NE of Springfield||Effingham||0134||2.5 miles (4.0 km)||Over 40 houses were damaged, and three mobile homes and many outbuildings, barns and sheds were destroyed. Power transmission towers were also knocked down. Six people were injured, both in vehicles and mobile homes.|
|EF2||NE of Rincon||Effingham||0144||0.5 miles (800 m)||Tornado impacted the McIntosh Plant of Georgia Power, where several buildings were destroyed.|
|EF0||Due West||Abbeville||1950||1 mile (1.6 km)||Tornado reported by a local sheriff with trees damaged.|
|EF0||N of Bucklick||Fairfield, Kershaw||2010||25 miles (40 km)||Long track tornado with tree damage.|
|EF3||Prosperity area||Newberry, Richland||2025||28 miles (45 km)||Many houses sustained major damage and mobile homes were destroyed. Two people were injured.|
|EF1||Lugoff area (1st tornado)||Kershaw||2030||23 miles (37 km)||Numerous houses and mobile homes damaged and trees down.|
|EF0||SE of Angelus||Chesterfield||2047||7 miles (11 km)||Long track tornado with tree damage.|
|EF1||McCormick area||McCormick, Edgefield||2102||24 miles (39 km)||Long track tornado with intermittent light to moderate damage, affecting numerous houses and mobile homes.|
|EF2||Elgin area||Kershaw||2122||7 miles (11 km)||Large wedge tornado tore through town damaging many houses and destroying four mobile homes. Two people were injured.|
|EF1||SW of Ward||Saluda||2124||3 miles (4.8 km)||Major damage to one house and many trees knocked down.|
|EF0||Lugoff area (2nd tornado)||Kershaw||2133||1 mile (1.6 km)||Brief tornado touchdown.|
|EF0||SE of Monetta||Aiken||2137||1 mile (1.6 km)||Brief tornado touchdown knocked down trees.|
|EF1||Pelion area||Lexington||2141||8 miles (13 km)||One mobile home was heavily damaged and farm equipment was damaged.|
|EF1||E of Sharp||Richland||2143||4 miles (6.4 km)||Significant damage in the Lake Carolina area with homes damaged and trees knocked down, especially near Columbia Country Club.|
|EF0||Latta||Dillon||2148||1.2 miles (1.9 km)||Minor damage to seven houses, some of which was caused by fallen trees.|
|EF1||N of Wolfton||Orangeburg, Calhoun||2205||21 miles (34 km)||Several houses and barns were damaged and outbuildings were destroyed. Tree damage reported in the area.|
|EF0||N of Pleasant Lane||Edgefield||2211||4 miles (6.4 km)||Trees down in a heavily forested area.|
|EF2||Clearwater area||Aiken||2218||25 miles (40 km)||Large wedge tornado up to 1 mile (1.6 km) wide destroyed a water tower and heavily damaged many houses.|
|EF1||S of Florence||Florence||2225||14 miles (23 km)||Over 80 houses were damaged and about 10 trailers were rolled. At least 16 were also impacted. Three people suffered minor injuries and two livestock were killed.|
|EF0||W of Williston||Barnwell||2247||unknown||Brief tornado touchdown with no damage.|
|EF1||S of Ashwood||Lee||2252||14 miles (23 km)||Several houses, mobile homes and a church were damaged.|
|EF0||E of Elko||Barnwell||2254||unknown||Brief tornado touchdown with no damage.|
|EF0||S of Manning||Clarendon||2302||8 miles (13 km)||Tornado tracked along the north shore of Lake Marion. Minor damage to several houses.|
|EF1||SE of Denmark||Bamberg||2305||2 miles (3.2 km)||Several houses sustained moderate damage, and power poles were knocked down.|
|EF0||Aynor||Horry||2313||0.25 miles (400 m)||A mobile home and a car port were destroyed, which also damaged trees and power lines.|
|EF1||S of Greeleyville||Williamsburg||2317||1.5 miles (2.4 km)||One house was damaged and a church steeple was toppled. Extensive tree damage.|
|EF3||Branchville area||Bamberg, Orangeburg||2325||14 miles (23 km)||Widespread damage in the area from a large wedge tornado with 17 houses damaged or destroyed. Many downtown buildings and a fire station were also damaged or destroyed in Branchville.|
|EF1||Trio||Williamsburg||2336||3 miles (4.8 km)||A total of 35 houses were damaged, of which one was destroyed.|
|EF1||SW of Oakland||Georgetown||2354||20 yards (20 m)||Very brief tornado blew a few trees onto a house.|
|EF1||N of Ridgeville||Dorchester||0008||2.2 miles (3.5 km)||Rope tornado with metal panels removed from a gas station canopy. Two mobile homes were also heavily damaged.|
|EF1||Strawberry||Berkeley||0025||0.6 miles (970 m)||Heavy damage to a mobile home park with 14 mobile homes impacted. Seven people were injured.|
|EF1||N of Charity||Berkeley||0036||1.2 miles (1.9 km)||Roofs were damaged on a church and a house. Many trees were knocked down.|
|EF0||Fair Bluff||Columbus||2210||30 yards (27 m)||Very short-lived tornado damaging a few trees amidst straight-line wind damage.|
|EF1||Hampstead||Pender||2356||2 miles (3.2 km)||Several houses and businesses were damaged in the area.|
CNN Center was severely damaged, including shattered windows. The Georgia World Congress Center also sustained serious damage, as was the Omni Hotel, especially the skywalk between the two hotel towers over Andrew Young International Boulevard. This complex alone lost 476 windows, making it necessary to close the south tower to guests. The facades of the Georgia Dome and a Philips Arena parking garage were damaged while hosting basketball games. Two of the giant columns in Centennial Olympic Park were knocked down, and bits of insulation were stuck in trees. Trees on some other streets, where more closely built skyscrapers cause a greater wind tunnel effect, were knocked completely down, despite being too early in spring to involve leaf drag. Glass was strewn across several streets, and Atlanta Police kept residents, hotel guests, and news crews away from buildings with loose glass, which continued to pose a danger into the night. Cars in the area also had windows blown out, and hotel and office furniture was found scattered about.
The Ritz Carlton, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Georgia-Pacific Building, SunTrust Plaza (where more than 60 people had to be relocated out of their offices), Equitable Building, and Georgia State University also had windows blown out (300 at Equitable alone), as did The Tabernacle (a former church with stained glass that is now a concert venue). The windows of the Westin continued to fall for days after the tornado, forcing police to keep several city blocks and MARTA's Peachtree Center station closed to pedestrians. The Georgia World Congress Center also sustained flooding while hosting a JROTC event and the Hinman Dental Meeting; Fox Sports Net took footage of a staircase in the new section of the complex that looked like a fountain with water cascading down it. The annual Atlanta Home Show and all other events were cancelled for the weekend in the GWCC complex, as was the Atlanta St. Patrick's Day Parade scheduled for the next day. WRAS FM at Georgia State University was off the air for two days, though it was not stated whether its studio or tower sustained damage, or if this were due to security or safety concerns, or power outages. The historic Rialto Theatre at GSU also sustained roof damage, which in turn caused water damage inside.
Further east, Grady Hospital reported some damage to windows and a brief power outage. Many of the injured were taken there, and some walked there and were treated in the emergency room for cuts due to glass. The King Memorial MARTA station was damaged and was being bypassed by trains, with buses rerouted to the next station on each side. Oakland Cemetery suffered major damage to monuments and to its huge oaks and magnolias, and the caretaker found window blinds around the neck of a statue of a Civil War veteran buried there.
In the nearby Cabbagetown area, a brick loft building (well known for the fire that occurred there in 1999, during its renovation from the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, in which the crane operator was rescued by helicopter during live TV news coverage) lost part of its roof, and part of the top (fifth) floor. Another building at The Stacks on Boulevard partially collapsed; search and rescue personnel were unable to enter, but everyone was accounted for by the management within a few hours.
When the tornado hit, a SEC tournament game between Mississippi State and Alabama which had just been sent into overtime minutes earlier by a shot from Mykal Riley, was in progress at the Georgia Dome. The storm ripped panels from the exterior of the building and tore at least two holes in the roof of the Dome, causing insulation to fall and the scoreboard and catwalks suspended from the roof to sway. Mykal Riley's shot was considered to have saved lives by keeping people safe inside the Georgia Dome. After a 64-minute delay, the game was completed, however the next scheduled game between Kentucky and Georgia was postponed. The remainder of the tournament games were played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Georgia Tech, with spectators restricted to team and conference personnel, media, team bands, and families of players only due to the much smaller size of the alternate venue. At the nearby Philips Arena, little disruption was noticed by the attendees during the game between the Hawks and the Los Angeles Clippers, even though damage occurred to the outside of the arena.
All of CNN's TV networks remained on the air, but there was damage to the glass roof of the CNN Center atrium, flooding part of the food court. Additionally, blown-out windows in the ground floor CNN.com newsroom and the fourth floor videotape library caused minor damage. Live news coverage of the aftermath was carried on CNN International, in turn simulcast domestically on CNN until 1 am EDT. CNN resumed broadcasting from their main newsroom at 6 am EDT, showing several parts of the newsroom with computer stations covered with tarps, the damaged atrium of CNN Center, and staff using trash cans and buckets to collect dripping rainwater to the right of the anchor desk due to the damaged roof. When more storms moved in later in the day, the network was forced to move all Atlanta on-camera operations to the windowless CNN-I studio, while taped programming was shown for most of the day.
The city received emergency assistance from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), Highway Emergency Response Operators (HEROs), Fulton and DeKalb counties (where Atlanta is situated), and surrounding cities and counties. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin also declared a state of emergency for the city  and Governor Sonny Perdue issued a state state of emergency declaration  for Atlanta enabling the city to seek disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). President Bush declared a major disaster on March 20.