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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
Tornado in Atlanta Causes Destruction; The Race for Pennsylvania; Controversy About Race on the Campaign Trail; Violence in Tibet
Aired March 15, 2008 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Some concern, the building is rocking (ph) a bit. Not exactly sure why some of our ...
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BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, now we know why. Breaking news overnight here in Atlanta, a tornado hitting the downtown area.
This is the scene just a few hours ago at the Georgia Dome, next door to the CNN Center, an SEC tournament game interrupted. Thousands of fans watched as part of the roof was ripped off.
Take a look at this, the scene outside of our building, the CNN center. Destruction and debris everywhere and just a few miles east, 20 homes just flattened in one Atlanta neighborhood.
From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. Hello, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to you all. I'm T.J. Holmes in that neighborhood that Betty was just mentioning, Cabbagetown, just east of downtown Atlanta which was hit hard, some 20 homes believed completely destroyed down here. Search and rescue efforts are the priority right now. The cleanup will have to come later.
And also, in the building just behind me, a historic building here that have converted to lofts, the top floor of that building pancaked in, as officials say, and right now, efforts are going on inside to see if there are any survivors. Right now, officials are telling us that they believe that there could be people dead inside that building. They also believe there could be death associated with those 20 homes that were destroyed.
We'll be talking a whole lot more about this building behind me and the surrounding area of Cabbagetown, just east of downtown, Betty, that was hit hard, just like we were downtown, in our home at the CNN Center and also the Georgia Dome and surrounding area there.
NGUYEN: There is so much damage to talk about this morning, T.J.
There is cleanup is under way this morning in downtown Atlanta, streets just outside CNN Center are littered with debris from the storm, there is glass and debris everywhere. The building itself was damage. There is water coming into the CNN Center at this hour, but the storm also blew down a wall at the Georgia World Congress Convention site.
A broken water line caused this kind of flooding, look at that, down the stairway inside the building there and crews are searching a loft building where several floors collapsed. Now, it's not known whether anyone was inside. T.J. is at that area, Cabbagetown, and as he'd say, it was flattened in a pancake fashion.
And the question this morning is was anyone home at that hour because it was around 10:00 o'clock at night on a Friday when the storm blew through?
HOLMES: We don't know. And officials just don't know how many, again, this is a revitalized building, lofts that has just been built not too long ago, converted into lofts not too long. So, they're not sure how many people actually lived here, are living here at the time and if it's fully occupied.
Just so many questions but they have to make sure and we've seen flash lights through some of those windows. We can see fire and rescue people are inside right now, going through and they have to go through carefully because take a look at this over my shoulder action. I'm going to step out of the way of the camera and let you take a peek at it up top, Betty.
But if you look up into the top of that building, there was another floor up there, these were some high-rise or high-ceiling loft, if you will, and the top one, the floor completely pancaked in and it is gone. So, the building is no doubt unstable right now and officials have to be very careful about going through there and trying to figure out if anyone was inside and if they possibly are trapped, and Lord forbid, if anybody happened to die in this thing.
So, those are the questions we'll still be getting over the next 24 to 36 hours. We did get some answers at least and an update last night from officials with the city, the mayor, also fire officials.
Let's take a listen to the update they gave us just a short time ago.
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CAPT. BILL MAY, ATLANTA FIRE DEPARTMENT: The search efforts at the cotton mill are still under way, due to the instability of the collapsed area. We're having to shore that area up before we can send our firefighters in.
MAYOR SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, ATLANTA: I drove around the city for about an hour, and there are, I mean it's pretty major. And when you drive by or have to park and you see a tree that's every bit of 200, 300 years old, just flat and smashed.
It becomes pretty clear that this was a pretty strong storm. At the time I was looking, I didn't know whether it was a tornado or not, but then you drive along Piedmont, you go down CNN, you see what's happened at the Dome.
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HOLMES: Yes, it really is amazing and this particular neighborhood, the Cabbagetown, a historic area that was on its way back, it now looks like it has been set back by several years because of the storm, the neighborhood, the surrounding neighborhood around this industrial area here, plenty of one-story homes, 20 of them we understand have been flattened.
And just making our way here, this morning, to get to our live shot location, just debris strewn about all over the place, power lines down, trees down, even some cars that were smashed in from falling trees, cars destroyed. So, it is just a mess down here.
Reynolds, this is no doubt a serious weather situation we saw last night. And being out here at the scene out here this morning as well, we had to stop our live shot around the 6:00 hour because so much thunder and lightning was coming in, it was not really a safe situation for us and the rain is kind of stopped but we still see, maybe a storm system moving through.
Are people in the clear at the Atlanta area?
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's a great question, T.J. You know, it's funny, on some areas of radar it does appear that things are getting better, especially here at CNN, but then, all of the sudden you can just hear the rain, the wind and all of that, that just starting to come down again. It is pretty intense.
We had moments ago a tornado warning that was in effect for just parts of northeastern Atlanta. That has since expired. But we're going to do is still zoom in on the area. Let's go to radar if we can and we're going to zoom in on those locations.
And here we go, taking you just to parts of the I-285 corridor and then, moving back up towards Dahlonega and even into Athens. We're seeing a lot of these showers moving eastward, they're moving to (ph) at a quick rate. And Snellville, you should be in the clear for the most part but back over towards Monroe, it's almost over for you, but if you happen to be in Bostwick or over towards Bogart, things are getting really bad. You're going to see the rain begin to pick up, the wind also intensify.
And right behind the storm, we're going to see the bowing effect as I've been talking about all morning long, that cupped shape of that particular cell that's going to be providing quite a bit of some wind, possibly damaging trees and power lines, could be certainly a rough time.
Betty, this is going to be an issue that we could be dealing with not just through the morning but into the afternoon. In fact, as we quickly look at this map, you'll see the latest we have from the storm prediction center, in terms of our areas most susceptible for severe weather today, you'll notice where you have the orange color on the map, that's your slight risk. Before, we have that area shaded in red, including the city of Atlanta -- we have a moderate risk through the day. So, by no means are we out of trouble just yet.
NGUYEN: And that is definitely not what cleanup crews need this morning, Reynolds. I want to show our viewers a look at some of the damage that we've experienced here just outside CNN Center.
This is just some, just some of the debris that is in the streets outside the Philips Arena, CNN Center, the Georgia Dome area where, last night, there were thousands of people not only at the SEC basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome but there was a Georgia Hawks game at the Philips Arena and of course, we were on the air here at the CNN Center.
So, there were thousands in the streets and this is what happened, just as the storm blew through. Oh, yes, not to mention the Omni Theater which is connected to CNN Center, the Omni Center that is the hotel, it has many windows. I don't have an exact number, but many of the rooms that face Centennial Olympic Park were shattered, the windows on them were shattered and the residents there had to evacuate to an exhibition hall to keep them in some safe area as this tornado blew through downtown.
And you know, Reynolds, the thing about it is, when you think of tornadoes, you really don't hear them hitting a really large city area like downtown Atlanta. Here's a look at the Omni Hotel as you're seeing residents being evacuated from their rooms and moved into a safe area. But you would think that the big buildings in all of the construction in and around a metro area like downtown Atlanta would provide some kind of a shelter in a storm like this.
WOLF: Well, to an extent I think it does. You know, the thing about tornadoes is, they can form any time of the year, any place on the earth. They are more apt to form in parts of the United States than the other place because where you have that moisture feeding in from the Gulf of Mexico, clashing with the cold air coming in from the north and everything just came together last night to give us this great severe weather outbreak. When I say great, I mean great and terrible, not great and good, obviously.
You know what is a miracle, Betty, you're mentioning every single function we had in downtown Atlanta, around the CNN center, it is an outright miracle that conditions weren't even worse, that we didn't have more widespread injuries and fatalities. We're very fortunate in that regard.
Obviously, we've got a lot to deal with in terms of what we're going to find out in Cabbagetown. We've got of course a lot of wreckage that T.J. has been talking about all morning.
One big disadvantage we have, Betty, in, Atlanta, when you think about this, if you've ever gone storm chasing or even viewers across America, or might be listening on satellite radio, a lot of times when you go storm chasing in Oklahoma and central plains, you're in a very flat area.
In Atlanta, we don't have that advantage because we've got so many hills, we've got so many ridges and of course, as Betty mentioned, the downtown area, these big buildings, although in some places they can provide shelter, if you happen to be in the middle, but if you happen to be near those windows, it's anybody's guess.
I mean, we had, Betty, how much glass have you seen on the streets alone just from the damage from the winds?
NGUYEN: Well, as soon as you get from the midtown area that little line that crosses into downtown, you not only see the police cars and the blockades but then, you start to see the glass in the streets and I had to drive through so much of it, just trying to get close to the CNN Center. I couldn't even make it into the parking decks here at the CNN Center because there was so much debris in the streets.
In fact, I had to park over at the Omni Hotel, and just getting into that, what you're looking at right there, which is a parking garage, it was filled with glass and debris. And I want to show you this, too, if we can get the camera out on me right now, because this is part of the ceiling here, at CNN Center, part of the ceiling has come down the roof and the atrium area.
Many areas of that are just gone, they were blown away and there's water coming in right now from the storm that is blowing through, someone described it as a waterfall coming in through the atrium portion of the CNN Center. So, everyone in the downtown metro area, pretty much saw at least some of the major damage that was caused by this storm.
WOLF: It's amazing how quickly it happened, too, Betty. You know, really, conditions started to deteriorate last night right around 9:00 o'clock. And then, from 9:00 o'clock to that 9:30, it's been the heart of the storm, came through the downtown area. We have people here in the building that had been remarking that right around 9:40 or so, the storm was really at its full pitch, where they could hear all kinds of noise from outside.
Of course, you heard the stories of it sounding like a dull roar, like a freight train and they could hear these ripping noises also. It was funny, there was actually, I actually saw a report last night of a parking attendant of one of the parking garages being outside when the storm rolled through.
She said she actually held onto a telephone pole, a lamp post and the winds were so strong that it was holding her vertically, almost like a flag being pushed at full staff. It just had her completely off of the ground, she was holding on for dear life onto this pole. It is one of many stories we're going to hear over the next day just on how people were able to cope with the system as it came through town.
NGUYEN: Well, which really supports the theory that a tornado indeed did slam through downtown Atlanta because there were other reports, different types of items inside a building being sucked out. And I heard on the radio this morning coming in, and I don't have it confirmed, that in fact, one person sustained some serious injuries because they were sucked through a window. WOLF: My goodness.
NGUYEN: So, the damage is indeed extensive as you look at the pictures right outside of where we're broadcasting from, right now, the CNN Center and what makes it even worse at this hour is, another storm is blowing through and as you say, Reynolds, we could be in for more storms throughout the day. So, this is definitely not over.
I want to take you out now to CNN's T.J. Holmes who is in the Cabbagetown, historic district and that neighborhood really sustained the brunt of damage.
HOLMES: That appears to be the case, and we are going to get even a better assessment of just how bad the damage was when daylight hit. I could tell you, it's pitch black dark out here right now, pretty much because of, power is out to so many down here. But just driving through, the streets are just littered with debris, power lines are down, trees have come down, trees have come down on cars. It is just a mess out here.
Well' get a better idea of that in a little while when the sun comes up. We can tell you, I'm getting an update from fire officials out here. We do know that they are focusing right now on the building behind me, that's the Fulton cotton mill lofts.
Part of this industrial area, historic industrial area that has now been converted into lofts, this building mind me, and you can see the top level of that building has been pancaked in, as the officials describe it, the entire top level is gone, go ahead and take a look that for yourself.
But we do know now that four Georgia search and rescue teams have been brought in and right now, this building is the focus because they're having to go through quite carefully and meticulously and trying to see if anyone has survived, if anyone was inside, anyone possibly trapped in there right now.
So, as daybreak comes, they're going to take a better assessment of the situation and see if they need more crews to come in, and see what else they possibly need but we do know that the focus right now is that building.
Officials told us overnight that they believe, possibly, that people have been killed in this thing because of this building, of the damage here and also because 20 homes and the surrounding neighborhood of Cabbagetown have been destroyed according to authorities. Also, we do know that 15,000 people right now are still without power in this area.
I believe we do have a guest with us, Ruben Brown, Jen Bernstein (ph), my executive producer, I believe that's where we're going now.
But Ruben Brown, it is our guy with the Red Cross who is in the Cabbagetown area, that particular neighborhood, just a little ways (ph) away from me where 20 homes have been flattened. Ruben, we appreciate you giving us some time this morning. You tell us, what is and just how desperate is the need right now for the people there in Cabbagetown?
RUBEN BROWN, AMERICAN RED CROSS: Well, the need is very great as it is across the city of Atlanta. We've suffered a traumatic blow here due to the storms that came through last evening. The Red Cross has established a shelter just a few miles northeast of here at the Helene Mill recreation center.
At that center we have about 50 clients. We're providing hot meals to them. We're also providing cots, basically a home away from home. That's the first phase of the disaster operation.
The second phase will mean that we go out, provide damage assessment in the areas that have affected, teams of volunteer will canvas metro Atlanta, trying to figure out the pockets that have been affected most, providing assistance to people that need it and providing emotional support if and when that's need as well.
HOLMES: And Ruben, you said, you're serving about 50 right now. How many do you possibly expect? I know it's still early but how many are you even getting ready for?
BROWN: Well, we are prepared to serve as many as need be. We have a shelter open at this point. We're anticipating that we might have to open another shelter. We understand that more severe weather is on the way. So, we want to get ready for that.
But rest assured, Red Cross is prepared with volunteers, who are both on alert, in the field, and providing services at the shelter, and we also have the resources to provide assistance as needed.
HOLMES: And Ruben, where do you know or do you know where are those 50 coming from? What part of the city? Are they from the Cabbagetown area?
BROWN: We understand that the fourth ward, which is just east of metro Atlanta proper, was an area which was really horribly affected by the storms. Cabbagetown is just a little bit east of that area, and so, most of the people that are at the shelter right now are from the fourth ward area.
That's not to say that people won't come from other areas. Just want it to be known that the shelter is open to anyone who needs Red Cross assistance and needs a roof over their head at this point.
HOLMES: And Ruben, we're going to let you go here but just lastly, people are listening to this, also any family members who need to possibly reach out to their family members and get them help, where should they be calling, where should they be going to get that assistance from you all right now?
BROWN: At this point, they can call 866-RCHELPS, that's R-C-H-E- L-P-S. That number is a 24-hour number. They can call the number to get assistance.
They can also go to Atlantaredcross.org to find out how they either donate to the Red Cross because this is going to be a long-term proposition or to become volunteers to donate blood. We need all of those things at this point.
HOLMES: All right. Well, Ruben, we certainly hope that help comes in and thank you for your time this morning. I know you all are going to be busy for quite some time and have been busy overnight. But thank you for your help in helping folks out and also helping us get the word out to folks this morning. Ruben Brown from the American Red Cross.
And Betty, just to wrap things up out here for now, it really is and the thing is we always know, just wait until daylight and it will tell the whole story and tell a different story from what you can see overnight. We can see a mess here but it's almost scary to think what we're going to see when daylight finally gets here in short time.
NGUYEN: That's exactly what I was thinking because what I saw just coming in to work this morning and people have described it as a disaster zone especially in the downtown area. So in looking at that building behind you, T.J., there's a lot of work to be done and more storms coming through. We'll check in with you shortly.
And just to give you an update, this from the mayor's office at 5:00 a.m. this morning, there were some 200 firefighters working at this hour, as well as 150 police officers, they are urging people to stay out of the downtown Atlanta area, because of all the debris and glass, I'm being told as still falling at this hour from a lot of the buildings that were damaged. Power lines are down as well. And some 15,000 residents are without power according to the mayor's office.
And of course, we will stay on top of this story. We have much more to come. And I want you to imagine this, though, driving in your car, and then bricks come crashing down. That's what happened to one driver, when a tornado tore through Atlanta.
We're going to hear from people caught in the severe weather. And then, we're going to tell you a little bit about politics today because the next primary isn't until next month but the fight to win Pennsylvania is already on.
You are watching CNN, the best political team on television.
NGUYEN: Moving to politics now and the race for Pennsylvania, the primary there still more than five weeks away, but Hillary Clinton has picked up an important endorsement in the state. The mayor of Pittsburgh is now on board. Luke Ravenstahl said, he talked with both Clinton and Barack Obama before making his decision.
Both campaigns are still trying to get other top Pennsylvania Democrats on board.
CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser joins us now live from Pittsburgh this morning.
You know, the great thing about this election, it is so exciting that we are still weeks away from that primary and all eyes are centered on Pennsylvania.
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTORY: You got it.
It is prime time politics right now in Pennsylvania, even this early on a Saturday morning. There's a big parade here today. It's St. Patrick's Day weekend and Hillary Clinton will be marching in the parade right here in Pittsburgh, right here on the corner from where we were standing later this morning.
And then she's going to go on to other part of the state, Scranton, Pennsylvania in the eastern part. She'll be marching in another parade there as well. As you mentioned, Betty, she got a big endorsement here yesterday, the mayor of Pittsburgh. She's also got the mayor of Philadelphia's endorsement and she's got the governor's endorsement, Ed Rendell who is also the former mayor of Pennsylvania -- of Philadelphia.
So, she's got a lot of big endorsements in the state. It's a good state for her if you look at the demographics. A lot of union workers, a lot of older people and a lot of Catholic voters and those are what make up part of her base. So, Hillary Clinton also yesterday here in Pittsburgh, talking about gas prices at a gas station, you know, the economy was a big story yesterday, it's going to be a big story for us all next week.
The president was talking about the economy. She was here in Pittsburgh talking about high gas prices and what she can do to combat them. But it's not just the Democrats that are here.
John McCain was in Pennsylvania yesterday. He was campaigning as well and you could you ask why is he still campaigning even though he's the presumptive nominee? Because Pennsylvania is an important state come the general election in November. Both Democrats and Republicans want to grab the state. Whoever wins the state they think will win the White House.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama today is not in Pennsylvania. He's in Indiana because Indiana votes two weeks after Pennsylvania. So, you'll see some of the candidates like Clinton and Obama going to Indiana and North Carolina, which vote two weeks after Pennsylvania. This state, of course, the sixth most populous in the nation, 158 delegates at stake on April 22nd.
As for Barack Obama though, a little bit of controversy yesterday. He had to speak out about his former pastor at the church he's been a member of for 20 years. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright just retired as the pastor of the church where Obama got married, where his children were baptized.
The pastor had some of his former sermons that he's made over the years, including some just late last year have been in the news this past week, one of them in particular where he said that Hillary Clinton had an advantage over Barack Obama, because she was white and he was black. That made a lot of news, and Barack Obama came on "AC 360" last night to react.
So, here's a little bit of what Jeremiah Wright said and what Barack Obama said last night to Anderson Cooper.
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REV. JEREMIAH A. WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: It just came to me within the past few weeks, y'all, why so many folks are hating on Barack Obama. He doesn't fit the model. He ain't white. He ain't rich. And he ain't privileged. Hillary fits the mold.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I strongly condemn the statements that have been shown on the tape. I have to confess to thank those are not statements that I ever heard when I was sitting in the pews at this church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEINHAUSER: Obama also said that Jeremiah Wright was no longer serving on an advisory committee to the campaign. He said he never heard any of these sermons over the years when he was attending the church. But he did say that Jeremiah Wright had served him as a spiritual adviser for many years, so why does this matter?
Because you know, Jeremiah Wright is not advising Barack Obama on policy, but you know, when you're voting for president and I think you're voting on the issues but you're also voting on the people that advise the president, that both spiritually and any other way.
So, this matters to a degree and we've also heard, you know, last week you had Geraldine Ferraro's comments as well about race, about Barack Obama. So, race has become a big factor in this race. Betty?
NGUYEN: Yes. But, Paul, very quickly, Barack Obama to be clear, is not withdrawing his membership from the church, he is just not having Jeremiah Wright on his advisory team
STEINHAUSER: Exactly. He's still a member of the church. Jeremiah Wright is no longer part of the campaign in any way.
NGUYEN: All right. Paul Steinhauser joining us live. Paul, as always, we do appreciate it.
And: CNN's Josh Levs is here with a reality check on the campaign trail. So much to talk about today, Josh.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So much. In fact we're going to talk about that. Because, you know, what happened this past week is while all of this was going on, this latest racial battle, we also had a new contest in Mississippi that did in many ways bring back to the forefront, just how significant race can really be to a lot of voters.
We're going to talk through that coming up in just a few minutes here. Betty.
NGUYEN: All right. Stay with us for that, and of course, we are going to have the latest on all the damage from the storm that blew through last night, causing major destruction in the metro Atlanta area. You want to stay tuned to CNN for much more on the storms.
NGUYEN: Well, good morning and look at the mess that the storm left behind. This is a look at the downtown Atlanta area, as a tornado slammed through last night, just outside the CNN Center. There is damage all around, in fact, here in the CNN Center, rain is still coming through the roof, where holes have been ripped apart.
T.J. Holmes is in one neighborhood, T.J., where is at a historic area but there's not much left of a top portion of a building there.
HOLMES: Yes, speaking of ripped apart, the building right behind me, a historic building here, just east of downtown where the storm come through, not being called a tornado officially, the tornado came through and ripped really the top level of this building off. This was an historic industrial building that had converted into lofts, residential lofts and the top level there has been pancaked.
Also, the Cabbagetown area, which is the surrounding neighborhood around this industrial area where I am, 20 homes destroyed, is the word that we're told. Georgia rescue teams are here right now, at least four combing through this building and also going through those other homes in the surrounding Cabbagetown neighborhood.
Search and rescue is a priority right now. The cleanup we'll have to deal with that later. But right now, the priority is possibly finding any people who are trapped and who have survived, and that is the priority right now.
Betty, you mentioned there that the downtown area, what a mess last night. There are so many areas of the downtown area, restaurants and things kind of sprawled about here or there around the downtown area.
But if there is one area that we know people are going to come, it's that one, that one focus point, that one area, the CNN Center, Philips Arena next door, the Georgia Dome right next door, that's where all of the tourists come to, that's where all of the people will be, if you will, on any given weekend when events are happening, that's where everyone was last night.
SEC tournament is going on at the Georgia Dome. In Phillips Arena, you have the Atlanta Hawks game, and of course, the CNN Center which is always bustling and that is precisely where the storm hit downtown last night and made a mess of things.
Our Rusty Dornin was there last night and talked to some people who went through this firsthand.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out of nowhere, the roar, ripping steel off roofs and demolishing a four-story condominium at the historic Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill complex. CHIEF KELVIN COCHRAN, ATLANTA FIRE RESCUE: It actually collapsed in what we refer to as a pancake fashion, and we have not ascertained at this point whether all of the occupants were evacuated.
DORNIN: Nearby, Atlanta police said 20 houses were destroyed. The late evening tornado blasted a swath through a downtown, packed with thousands at a dental convention and the SEC basketball tournament. The game was exciting enough, Alabama versus Mississippi in overtime, and then the tornado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building is rocking a bit.
DORNIN: Kathy and Stephanie Pitt (ph) said it sounded like a herd of elephants on the fabric roof of the Georgia Dome.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People started pointing. You could see holes and the top ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole roof was shaking like there was something jumping on the top of the Dome.
DORNIN: Bill Lobo (ph) was in the Omni Hotel lounge, watching the game on TV, right next to the windows.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And all of the sudden, the plants started flying across the room, the windows started breaking. We just ran to the interior portions, where it was safer, just got on the floor.
DORNIN (on camera): Like most of the people in the area, the hotel guests had no idea what happened when it hit. The windows were literally sucked out, after one unlucky guest's luggage ended up on the street.
(voice-over): Hotel guests had to be evacuated. Marty Wade (ph) and his wife, Terry (ph), saw the tornado hit the Georgia Dome from their room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw pieces of roofing coming off in a circular fashion and right after that, all of the windows blew in. And we have a patio door that kind of looked out on those windows and that blew in and we headed for the bathroom and just sat in the tub.
DORNIN: Darlene Masad (ph) was in a bus, parked in front of CNN Center.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hail started coming and then, all kinds of trash and glass started coming. The lady next to me and just gave me a hug and she said, "Honey, this is a tornado. It will be over with in just a little while." (INAUDIBLE).
DORNIN (on camera): So, that reassured you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, what?
DORNIN (voice-over): At Georgia State University, a high-rise dorm was evacuated after a gaping hole was torn in the 14th floor. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A huge hurricane-force wind for about a minute, and we're just all crowded around the windows and we're looking and watching all the lights. Then, we're watching the parking signs fall over.
DORNIN: Rescue efforts went on through the night in devastated neighborhoods. As a stunned Atlanta dealt with what was unimaginable: a tornado in the heart of downtown.
Rusty Dornin, CNN, Atlanta.
HOLMES: No doubt, it is quite unimaginable to have a tornado hit in a downtown area and certainly one that was as busy as downtown Atlanta last night. Of course CNN is all over the story literally.
This story happened, you know they say sometimes happened in your own backyard, but this is not just in our backyard, this actually hit our house, the CNN Center itself was struck last night by this tornado, that, of course, where my colleague Betty Nguyen is and also our Reynolds Wolf is standing by in the weather center where, of course, he's still tracking more storms today and also giving us updates on last night.
Also we have with us in Atlanta, Cal Perry, who is usually covering Baghdad for us, he has been in charge of our Baghdad Bureau for some time, now here in Atlanta with us.
And Cal, you are used to covering stories where there's so much destruction, given where your background is and where you're coming from but this is destruction that's come to us by way of Mother Nature, and the Cabbagetown neighborhood where we understand some 20 homes have been destroyed. What are you seeing there?
CAL PERRY, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I got to tell you, T.J., I'm seeing exactly that devastation on a scale that I have not seen before and I certainly haven't seen it on a scale that Mother Nature has brought.
We're looking at rows of houses here where the trees have split in, literally in half, have absolutely crushed entire rows of houses. There's also a street behind me about half a mile, behind me a street that is literally completely impassable, the trees are down. There's too much debris in the road and we have seen no crews come down that street. They simply couldn't pass even if they wanted to.
So, 20 houses maybe at this point, a rough estimate, it might be more than 20, because simply some of these neighborhoods, they can't get to yet, and that's a serious problem obviously. But again, what I found very interesting, looking at this neighborhood, these houses very closely packed together, these huge trees that are obviously quite old, that is what brought the majority of the damage. These trees are falling and literally splitting houses in half, T.J.
HOLMES: All right, Cal Perry, keeping an eye on things there for us. And I want to ask you as well, Cal, I know you can tell that we're starting to get a little daylight. Are you starting to see people, at least starting to come out and check out their homes and look around or is it still a ghost town littered with debris?
PERRY: People are out here on the streets and we talked to some residents, right before the live shot and they said without a doubt, they said, we saw the tornado. One man said he saw the clouds swirling. He said it was absolutely terrifying. He said his roommate called him and said, you need to find some cover, there's a storm headed your way and it's hitting here and the trees are falling.
So, people are out here on streets, surveying the damage for themselves. It will be interesting to see if those rescue crews where you are, make their way over here and take a look at the damage here in Cabbagetown.
HOLMES: All right. Cal Perry for us. Cal, good to have you here in Atlanta, glad you could be here and help us out on this one.
And as Cal mentioned there, the search and rescue crews, we understand that they were focusing on this building behind me, the Fulton Cotton lofts, this building behind me, sections of the top have been taken off, pancaked and flattened in other areas according to officials, and how they described it, a pancaked fashion.
So, they're trying to go through, not sure if people are inside or not, those rescue teams are working right now. Going to send it back to the CNN Center, now, Reynolds, Betty, you are all keeping an eye on things back there. Like I said, not just in our backyard but our house got hit last night, the CNN Center.
NGUYEN: Absolutely, yes. There are holes in the roof here in the atrium of the CNN Center. We have tarp over computers because rain is still coming through and as we can see on the lenses from where you two are, T.J. and Cal, the rain is still coming down in parts of Atlanta.
So, I want to get over to Reynolds Wolf who's been tracking another storm that is blowing through. What are you seeing, Reynolds?
WOLF: Well, we're not out of the woods just yet, Betty. Of course, the first big installment last night and now, we're seeing much of it moved to the east of Atlanta at this time but, hey, we're still got a little bit more to deal with here in Atlanta and the rest of the nation.
Well, we could see some severe weather in other parts. Coming up in a few moments, we're going to give you the very latest and your forecast coast to coast. That's coming up very soon, right here on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was suddenly back in the news this week. Our own Josh Levs has Reality Check on the controversial issue she touched on and the impact of race in this Democratic contest. Boy, things are really heating up.
LEVS: Right. I mean, race moves back to the center this week all of the sudden. Now, that was the big topic. We keep seeing that, things keep shifting around and all of the sudden, that's front and center.
And you know, while a lot of the focus was really on some controversial remarks, there was also an election this week that showed how significant a race can be.
LEVS (voice-over): It's a reality of the Democratic primary but perhaps, its most sensitive issue, the role of race. After Geraldine Ferraro said Barack Obama wouldn't be where he is if he were white or female, both campaigns denounced the remark and she resigned as a Clinton fundraiser.
Obama has long sought to dispel the idea that black voters are largely responsible for his success. In South Carolina where he won with a vast majority of black votes but came in third among whites, his supporters chanted "Race doesn't matter."
But many voters say, it does matter to them. In the latest contest, Mississippi, Obama won with 92 percent of black voters, among whites 70 percent went for Clinton; 1/3 said race was important to their decision, and nearly 2/3 of them voted for Obama; more than 1/4 said gender was important and more than 2/3 of them went to Obama.
Back in Ohio, where Clinton won fewer voters, one in five said race was important but among them, 59 percent went to Clinton, even fewer said gender matters but among them, Clinton got 60 percent. Obama notes he has had victories among various demographics. He edged out Clinton among whites in Wisconsin and Virginia.
Both candidates say, they don't want voters deciding based on race or gender, but they have posted videos online that include voters citing those factors. This Obama supporter wants young people -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see there can be a black man who can achieve and walk into the White House one day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why did you vote for Hillary?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because she's a woman.
LEVS: Well, in this tight race, the two Democrats are really walking a tight rope. They want their supporters, the voters, who do care about those factors, even if they can actually say that. And you know, the campaigns have seen, that talking about race can be like entering a political mine field.
And as speaking of that, Betty, next hour, I'm going to tell you about a little dispute this week involving Clinton's 3:00 a.m. ad where there was an acquisition of potential racism in that ad. We'll take a look at that next hour.
NGUYEN: That ad keeps popping up over and over again. You can't keep talking about it, it seems.
All right. Thank you, Josh.
LEVS: Thanks, Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, you know, CNN "BALLOT BOWL" is your chance to hear the candidates unfiltered. "BALLOT BOWL" kicks off today, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific.
Storms blew threw overnight causing some major damage in the metro Atlanta area. And here's the deal, it's not over.
Meteorologist Reynolds Wolf is working hard in the severe weather center. He joins us now with the latest round of storms. What do you have, Reynolds?
WOLF: Well, you know, we're going to get a chance here in Atlanta to take a deep breath and kind of survey the damage a bit. And then, we need to brace ourselves for the possibility of more as we get to the late afternoon hours, maybe even into the evening.
Let's go right to radar, let me show you the two pockets. Now, keep in mind, we had the installment last night right around 9:00 o'clock as we had a lot of damage including 9:00 o'clock, 9:30, 9:45, is when we have the first bunch come through, this actually is the second batch (ph) that came through.
Now, what I want to do is actually expand a little bit outwards. I want to you keep an eye on an area, mainly into North Alabama. Because in North Alabama, what we are seeing here, if you look farther back into the Tennessee valley, we're seeing another batch over towards Corinth, Mississippi, right here and that's really a big concern to us because all of this is going to be moving due east, factor (ph) parts of Northern Alabama and possibly, affecting the Atlanta area as we get to late afternoon.
Not a great chance but still a chance nonetheless of bringing round two of the severe weather outbreak. Already, it has been just a mess in much of Atlanta. A storm prediction center earlier today did pose this, a slight risk area for a good part of the southeast. But areas that you see shaded in that reddish color, Betty, that's a moderate risk which obviously includes the Atlanta area and then, back into portions of South Carolina as well.
Now, I know that we've got people across the nation, they are just watching us this morning, some of you are tuning in on satellite radio as well, let me give you a quick update of what's happening here in the southeast.
Of course, the big concern is the possibility of the severe weather but also look for some snow in parts of the northeast, some scattered snow showers into the Rockies. And from Seattle southward to about Half Moon Bay, you're going to be seeing some rainfall on the I-5 corridor, and parts of highway 101, too.
That is the latest in the big weather picture. Let's send it back to you, Betty.
NGUYEN: Yes, let's get back to the weather here in Atlanta because as we brace for the storms to come through, a lot of people are just still trying to get their bearings after a tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta last night.
So, I want you to just imagine this, that you're driving through, just driving along minding your own business, and then bricks, bricks start falling out of the sky.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Debris on the windshield and we stopped, didn't want to move, and the building just came down on the vehicle. Look ahead, looked up. The building was in the back (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see blood on your nose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The passenger seat, I guess I got it the worst on that side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That had to be scary. I mean, what were you thinking when it was going on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy, it was just crazy, I mean, I can't explain it. Ducked down, and then got up, that's -- blessed. We're blessed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: That say lucky man, as he said, just driving along and you got a building in the back of your truck that just somehow fell out of the sky. And it's really amazing that more people weren't injured if you look at the damage sustained right here outside CNN Center.
There was a lot going on, thousands of people in the area, for the SEC basketball tournament game. There's also a Georgia Hawks game that was being played at the Philips Arena next door. And of course, the CNN Center is always busy.
So, it is truly incredible that we haven't heard of any fatalities so far but search teams are looking at a particular area to our east where some apartments were damaged extensively and there may be some search and rescue operations going on as well as at this hour.
We'll stay on top of all of this and bring you the latest from the storm damage here in the Atlanta area. Stay with CNN, you're watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: Apparently a tornado warning was in the area. So, this could be a case of a tornado actually being in the area and it's definitely sounded like the locomotive. It did, sounded like a freight train.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: That was the scary scene last night inside the Georgia Dome, where the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament championship was taking place, game going on at the time. The roof started swaying. The game had to be stopped for an hour or so. People had to run for cover pretty much, a lot of confusion in there about what was going on.
But in fact, we do know now what was going on outside. A tornado was hitting downtown Atlanta. We want to bring on and our business and sports analyst and good friend of the show, Rick Horrow, who's with us this morning.
Rick, we expect to be talking about the NCAA tournament coming up. We're supposed to do our brackets and things but sports is taking a serious turn for us here now. There are serious implications now and consequences for people on different levels here, for the fans, going to the tournament, for the SEC, for the NCAA, also for these teams.
Let's start first with the teams, tell us now what the league has decided to do and how this really put some of these teams who are fighting some of them for their NCAA birth lives are in a tough situation now?
RICK HORROW, CNN SPORTS BUSINESS ANALYST: Well, the bottom line for Kentucky or Georgia is they better be in pretty good shape because one of them has to play two games in a day and frankly, that's also going to be in front of a friends and family crowd. Because, you know, they're going at Alexander Memorial Coliseum over Georgia Tech.
The Georgia Dome has 25,000 seats for basketball, across town, 9,000 seats and really only friends and family, because you can't figure out who gets tickets and who doesn't at the last minute when you relocate games. So, there's some significant implications for everybody obviously.
HOLMES: So, what's going to happen now to all those people, who had, of course, you have to buy these books of tickets to these tournaments? People are holding on to their tickets to the semifinals and the finals and they're not going to be able to use those. Does that mean that the league, the SEC is about to lose a lot of money here because they're going to have to give refunds?
HORROW: Well, yes. And I don't know what the specifics to the refund policies are but you know they're going to have to do something about that. And the impact of these regional events, the pre- tournament tournament: $15 million, $20 million, $25 million, $30 million on the host cities, for the host cities.
Now, some of that is going to be there, but a lot of it is not. The hotels are going to figure out what to do obviously and today and tomorrow is huge as well. But I don't think selection Sunday, which is a big event for CBS and for the tournament itself, is going to be impacted because they've moved the games, they're going to get the tournament finished on time.
HOLMES: Are they still also, what about TV, have we heard of the games going to be moved are still going to be televised?
HORROW: Well, we understand they are going to be televised because you have to figure out how to televise. There's going to be television capability, not sure how it's going to be done and not sure of the logistics at this point, but they've done a lot in the last six, seven, eight hours as far as those issues, in addition to the basic personal safety issues as well.
HOLMES: And tell us, we talk about safety issues and certainly a scary scene in the Georgia Dome last night for all of the folks gathered there, but the roof swayed and it was loud. But you know, the Dome apparently held up. We don't know how much of a direct hit it was but apparently, it was pretty close if not a direct hit on the building.
Historically, with these domes, of course, people will remember the Superdome and the damage it sustained of course during the storm there. But how have these domes held up historically, have they done pretty well?
HORROW: Yes and let's also take another perspective and look back, too, not just the domes. Remember the huge earthquake in San Francisco, there was a World Series game that was played or going to be played that day, the A's and the Giants. It held, it swayed, some cement fell but it basically, as we said, held.
Superdome was the place of refuge, roof fell, roofing materials fell but the building itself held after some dramatic moments. So, these are expensive buildings, $200 million, $300 million but they're built with safety features in mind and that's an important issue for all of these public facilities in the future by the way.
HOLMES: All right, Rick Horrow we appreciate you. Again, we always anticipate having a little fun with you but last night, it took a serious turn.
And certainly, I had every intention of being at that game, at the Georgia Dome last night, but as it turns out, I did not make it to that game. So, I would have been there, but some scary stuff last night. But it's good to hear that everybody made it out all right and like you said, Rick, these expensive buildings have held up pretty well historically.
Rick, it's good to see you as always. We appreciate your help putting out that story this morning.
HORROW: Absolutely. We'll deal with the tournament issues next week.
HOLMES: We'll deal with that next week, Rick, we sure will. Thank you so much. We'll see you then.
And folks, we're going to have a lot more from this area as you can see, we're starting to get some daylight out here. We're starting to see more activity, more people out and about.
We'll get more perspective about exactly what happened last night and get a better view of it here in this area, where I am, just east of downtown Atlanta in the Cabbagetown historical district that got hit hard and also more from downtown Atlanta that got hit by a tornado last night.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just crazy. I mean, I can't explain it. You just duck down and got out. That's about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: Look at this, downtown Atlanta where a tornado ripped through the city last night. Good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen here at the CNN Center which has sustained damage from the storm. Part of the roof that covers the atrium has blown away. Water has flooded portions of the building and CNN of course is your severe weather headquarters and we're covering all of the angles.
And T.J. Holmes is live this morning from an apartment building where a search for survivors is under way. Four floors of that building collapsed last night. Reynolds Wolf is in the severe weather center watching the storm as well and Cal Perry is standing by in the Cabbagetown neighborhood where 20 homes were destroyed.
First up though, let's go live to T.J. now about a mile from downtown Atlanta. Downtown alone has sustained major damage. Looking at the building behind you, you're seeing a lot of it too, T.J.?
HOLMES: Major damage here as well. This is all part of that Cabbagetown neighborhood as you described. As we know, our Cal Perry is standing by where the homes are, the more residential area. This is a part of that, more of the industrial area over the past few years has been converted to more of a residential area. A building behind me, an historic one, some of these building down here up to 100 years old and this one behind me converted into lofts.
And what you can see, I'll step out and let you take a look at the top there of that building, pancake fashion is what it was called by officials last night, the way it was taken down by the tornado. But that is a top level of the building. These were apartments that were again converted into apartments but there were kind of high ceilings in those, so that was a top level and it has been taken out.
We have been told by officials just a short time ago that they don't believe anyone was at the time living in that particular portion, that top portion of the building that collapsed. That is good news according to one official here.
Also according to this official with the Fulton County police, they believe this entire complex, this whole building behind me and it still kind of wraps around and makes up the whole block. They say they accounted for everyone, gotten everyone out of the building and they do not believe that anyone is still in there at this point.
Also, no one was found to be trapped or anything like that so that is very good news. Georgia rescue teams were here going through a short time ago. So that is the scene right now and of course we are seeing daylight here as just a sea and a mess out here around.
I want to go to a guy who has some experience now, General Honore, of course who we all know and got to know around the time of hurricane Katrina who really went down there and put his foot down and really helped that city get back together, New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, has so much experience in disasters and helping cities get back together.
General Honore, sir, glad to have you with us. Appreciate you being on the phone with us this morning. And tell us, just from what you are seeing and what you are hearing so far, how bad is it in this area and what do you see that the folks here are going to need immediately?
VOICE OF LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY: Immediately is to complete the assessment and working with the first responders and the Red Cross and the state of Georgia to find shelter for those who lost their homes.
The other thing is you get accountability of everybody to make sure that on everybody's streets and in every building we have 100 percent accountability of everyone. And a storm of this nature, when it comes through a metropolitan area, has the multiplying effect because the winds get channeled between the buildings.
So in the large buildings, every room will have to be searched and on the streets if people have not seen your neighbors, you need to check on them. This will be the big (INAUDIBLE) in the next 10-12 hours, to ensure somebody is not isolated in their homes without power particularly those that need medical assistance or need ventilator assistance for breathing. So that's going to be the challenge in the next 10 to 12 hours.
HOLMES: And sir, tell us as well, how much of the challenge is to get everybody coordinated, if you will? I know the immediate need is to make sure everybody's accounted for, but just talk about how difficult it is to get all these municipalities coordinated and get their plan together and get into action immediately. HONORE: It is a challenge, but we're lucky. We're in the capital city, a lot of resources here. The storm team at a time when the city can recall it's people as well as the state of Georgia. So I think we're well postured here and the damage, even though it looks terrible has been limited. As we go through today, I'm sure it will get done. But it's been a while since an event like this happened in Atlanta, so we haven't had a lot of practice.
So it will be key to see what happens to complete the response. And people need to remember, there's another storm system coming through later today. So be aware and be prepared and take a look at your emergency evacuation and where is the safe plan in any building you're in.
HOLMES: Sir, you hit on something there. I was going to mention, a place like downtown Atlanta, this metropolitan area, and I guess you're still with me (INAUDIBLE).
HONORE: I'm with you.
HOLMES: You still with me there. OK, I'm sorry, got a little feedback there, but I was asking about a place like Atlanta, downtown Atlanta and even the people of Atlanta don't have a lot of experience with dealing with a tornado like this. I mean how often does practice, round throughs and things like that happen for a municipality like Atlanta? And also, I guess, how much does it hurt that they haven't really practiced this a lot?
HONORE: The emergency services quite often go through routine. The question is, how do you deal with the public? How do you deal with two basketball stadiums full of people? How do you deal with hotels that are about 60-70 percent full. That is the issue and that is one that we need to take the lessons from last night and be prepared for tonight because last night's over. We got to do the recovery and we need to get people ready for the next band of storms that's coming through.
HOLMES: All right, well, General Honore, we know you've got to run. We appreciate you taking the time with us this morning and lending us your expertise on this particular type of situation. General Honore, we appreciate you. Thank you so much.
And like you're saying, certainly a mess going on that all these municipalities need to get together right quick and make sure the plan is in place, but again, a place like Atlanta, downtown Atlanta, not a lot of experience with something like this.
Again, I am just east of downtown Atlanta. Downtown Atlanta of course as we know got hit and got hit hard, but also this neighborhood as well, just a mile east of downtown, the Cabbagetown area. I got some of the more historical buildings behind me, but also there are homes surrounding a neighborhood where we understand at least 20 homes have been destroyed.
Our Cal Perry, who of course many people will be familiar with as being the head of our Baghdad bureau for so long. He's now here with us in Atlanta here helping us cover this story, looking at a different type of destruction that he's used to looking at as we continue to look at live pictures of the mess downtown and as we're starting to get a little daybreak here and getting a better look at what has happened to us here last night.
But Cal, the area you are again, daylight, I'm sure you're seeing a much different perspective now that we're starting to get a lot of daylight. And also, we understood 20 homes were destroyed, but you say possibly more even?
PERRY: And I want to show you, T.J., exactly the same thing you did. I want to pan over here and show you these houses. And as you can see, houses that weren't damaged by the actual tornado, it is the trees that have done the massive amount of damage, huge trees just absolutely flattening or cutting these houses literally in half and we're talking about two-story homes here that have been completely and totally destroyed.
Now as you mentioned, we're talking about at least 20 homes, but as bad as the damage is that you're looking at now, it only gets worse as you get deeper into this neighborhood. And in fact, about a block behind these houses, it's unpassable. The trees are too many in the road. The branches are everywhere. There's simply too much debris. I could not myself even walk through the debris to get down the street and get a look at the houses.
So obviously, the concern here is that there is substantial damage that people simply have not seen yet and residents are going to be waking up this morning, coming back here, those that evacuated and taking a look at these homes and seeing that their homes have been absolutely crushed by these huge trees or damaged by the storm itself, T.J.
HOLMES: And Cal, I'm not able to see that picture that you showed the viewers, but tell us, in that neighborhood, you're starting to see, like you said, people were starting to wake up and going to be coming back to the neighborhood of course and looking around. Are you seeing that so far? And are you also seeing some of those rescue teams, those search and rescue teams that we have been hearing so much about?
PERRY: I haven't seen any search and rescue teams yet. I have seen a few police cars here and there kind of patrolling the neighborhood. But as the general was saying, this neighborhood especially, we spoke to somebody who's trying to get the neighborhood banded together and to help everybody out and to really do things themselves. We're starting to see a little bit of that this morning.
So far though, what we're seeing more than anything else is people that I believe from the greater Atlanta area driving around and taking a look at this damage. And as you pointed out, they're not used to tornadoes here in Atlanta, it's so unusual in downtown Atlanta tornadoes, to see a tree crush a house or split a house in half. That's something that people are really not used to seeing here T.J.
HOLMES: We are absolutely not used to seeing it certainly in such a populated congregated area as downtown Atlanta. Cal Perry there for us, here with us helping us cover this story here in downtown Atlanta in the Cabbagetown area in particular right now where we're going to be hearing a whole lot more about certainly in the coming hours and coming days.
We're told that some of that search and rescue could take 24 to 36 hours so they can get a -- to really get a good head count and make sure everybody is accounted for and see if anybody is possibly trapped in some of that rubble where some 20 homes as Cal was explaining have been destroyed.
Betty, I will hand it back over to you, just a mile to my west now in downtown where our home, Betty, was hit, the CNN Center sustained some pretty serious damage last night.
NGUYEN: If you're watching right now, you can see that we have some live pictures coming in from our local affiliate. And T.J., the damage where you are is extensive, but wait until you see the debris in the streets right outside of the CNN Center.
It is pretty remarkable that no one sustained any major injuries or was killed as a matter of fact because of these storms. Because there are thousands here attending the SEC (ph) tournament in the Georgia dome. There was an Atlanta Hawks game going on at Philips arena right next door to CNN Center and as we have been mentioning all morning long, CNN Center is always hustling and bustling with people.
And at the bottom of your screen, look at this, those are residents there or tourists I should say at the Omni Hotel which is adjacent to the CNN Center. They had to be evacuated. I saw a little bit earlier on some of the live pictures we were showing you. If you look at the windows of the Omni Hotel along the side that faces centennial Olympic park, many of those windows, there it is at the top right of your screen are just blown out.
And that's why they had to evacuate a lot of the people staying there to an exhibition hall. Look at that one guy, he can just stand there and look straight out and see the damage below him and then we're looking at the damage above him.
There is a massive cleanup effort that's going on in downtown Atlanta. Part of the roof of the Georgia dome was ripped off. The streets outside CNN Center are just littered with debris from the storm. And the building itself, CNN Center has been damaged. There are portions of the roof here, especially in the atrium area that are missing because of the storm. Rain has been pouring in all morning long.
The storm also blew down a wall at the Georgia Congress center convention site. And a broken water line and hopefully we get this video up, here it comes, a broken water line is what you see right there. See that water just coming down the stairs. This is no water fall, folks. That is a broken water line.
And we want to give you a closer look at some of the damage right outside of our doors. This was the scene outside the CNN Center after the storm hit. Police are telling people to stay away from downtown Atlanta because of all the debris on the streets. Several events as I mentioned were planned for downtown last night and also today in fact there is a St. Patrick's Day parade that was supposed to take place at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, but that has been canceled because of all the damage.
And the thing about it is the tornado threat isn't over yet. We have more storms on the way and just as people are getting up, assessing the damage, looking at the debris, they also have to brace themselves, Reynolds for another round of storms that will be coming through later today. Reynolds, are you there?
WOLF: I am right here, Betty. We're just looking at some new developments that are coming in. If we can, let's go right to radar. Are you with me right now? There you go. Let's go right (INAUDIBLE) I got a couple of things I want to show you Betty. You were talking about the potential for more storms.
Let's show you what's happening right now. Currently here is Atlanta for our friends at home. The heavy storms now moving right into the Georgia and South Carolina line. However as we pull away a little bit, I want to show you some developments. Good news that the storm is leaving Atlanta, but bad news is that we've got more on the way.
Here's the reason why. It's not what you can see, but rather it's what you can't see. What we're going to be dealing with is some strong winds coming in from the south, at times 20 miles per hour later on today. We already got very moist air here at the surface. In fact, all around Atlanta we've got pockets of fog, widespread fog, so you have got a lot of moisture at the surface, a lot of warm air coming in from the south. Then you have this pocket of severe weather over into Alabama and all of this is going to push eastward.
As it does, we could likely see more severe storms develop over parts of north Georgia, central Georgia including the Atlanta area. Again already at this time we have a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for portions of north Alabama. So, again Betty, looks like we are certainly not out of the woods just yet.
We have from the storm prediction center a moderate risk of the severe storm which is quite substantial for much of the Atlanta area. I would certainly tell people that if you happen to live in an area where you have some trees that have been damaged by last night's storm and you have some branches that are just barely hanging on. This might be one of those times.
You're going to have a few hours of a break where if you can get some help, try to take some of those branches down now, because when the second installment comes through, the next bunch that comes through of these storms which I would say would come by later to the mid to late afternoon hours, that could give some of these trees and some of these branches the additional heave-ho.
Betty, you've been talking all morning long about some of the hanging shards of glass high above right here at the CNN Center. All it's going to take is another strong gust of wind to knock these loose and these pieces of glass are projectiles. They become essentially deadly weapons, potentially deadly weapons. Should they fall on anyone, you've got some bad issues here too.
NGUYEN: Well that's why the police department here in Atlanta is really advising people to stay out of the downtown area. You saw the video. You experienced it coming in, Reynolds. There is debris everywhere and they are very concerned about glass that is still falling from the buildings here in downtown.
Speaking of the CNN Center and the damage surrounding it, I want to take you live outside now to WSB's John Bachman. He is getting a good look as we were getting some daylight this morning at the massive amounts of debris in the streets. What are you seeing where you are, John?
JOHN BACHMAN, WSB CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Betty.
Yeah, first I just want to say, we're very happy to see clear skies above us right now. And as you mentioned, with daylight, we are getting a fresh perspective of all the damage that was done. This is a very popular tourist spot, (INAUDIBLE) Olympic park.
If you come to Atlanta, you probably come here, you probably see those giant torches. Well, two of them are laying flat on the ground. They were knocked straight off of their bases. There is one right there. And I know that you were talking about this just a few minutes ago. But as you of course know very well, CNN's headquarters overlooks centennial Olympic park and the Omni Hotel, dozens and dozens of windows knocked out of the hotel there.
I can tell you that that is not the only building that suffered that kind of damage. From where I am standing, I can see at least a half dozen buildings with very similar damage, windows knocked out. It is going to be quite a job.
I spoke with the general manager of Centennial Olympic Park earlier this morning, He was out here surveying the damage in the dark. At that point in time, he had no idea just how much it would cost to fix all of this mess here. He had no idea when they would get to that. He said he was going to come back out here today with the daylight and have a better idea. But as you can see, it is going to take quite a bit of work.
NGUYEN: Some of witnesses say it just looked like a bomb went off in parts of metro Atlanta. And looking at these live pictures you can see why there was a lot of panic last night when the tornado blew through.
John, I have to ask you this though, as people are coming out, they're assessing the damage, the difficulty especially for those who have businesses in this area who are trying to get there just to see how bad it is, is actually getting into the downtown area because many of the roads are blocked. Power lines are down. What was it like for you to get to the point where you are now? BACHMAN: Quite frankly, we have been here since they shut those roads down. We were here shortly after the storm hit. As you mentioned, people we talked to right after the storm described this as a chaotic scene. They called it a war zone, all in my opinion very good descriptions. Right now Centennial Olympic Park Drive, the road that runs right along state Olympic park is closed. You can see police have blocked off the road there, turning traffic around there.
And you can see why. There's damage all around us. And as you mentioned, yeah, there will be some difficulties getting not only to this area, but several places downtown where there are a number of streets closed for the reasons you have already mentioned.
NGUYEN: Not only that, you having seen the tourists that were walking with their suitcases right behind you and you have this SEC tournament that's going on, so you have a lot of people in the metro downtown area and look at the debris that is left behind from the tornado. John Bachman, with WSD, we appreciate your time.
And we also want to bring you some live pictures now from Cabbagetown. This is a historic district of Atlanta where you can see the tree right there, a giant tree has just collapsed on top of several homes as Cal Perry, our reporter on the scene described it earlier. It looks pretty much like it split the home in half and that is just one of many.
I understand at least 20 homes have been damaged by these storms and we're going to get a better idea of just how extensive this damage is as we start to get daylight here in Atlanta and get a better view of exactly what happened and how much is left behind, not only when it comes to the buildings that are still standing, but what is in the streets when we talk about debris.
You want to stay with CNN. We are covering it from all the angles. You are watching CNN SATURDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: We are following breaking news out of Atlanta today. As the sun is coming up, we're getting a better idea of just how extensive the damage is as a tornado blew through overnight. We understand 30 people have been treated for injuries. This is the Cabbagetown area, east of downtown Atlanta. And as you can see, homes have been damaged because of this.
Our correspondent on the scene says essentially it looks like the tree has split a house in two and this is just one of many. There are some 20-plus homes that have been damaged because of these storms. Not only that, the power lines are down and some 13,000 residents in the Atlanta area are without power at this hour. So we are on top of this breaking news story and we'll continue to cover it. But there's also other news, both nationally and internationally to tell you about.
First up, more protests expected today over Tibet. That could mean more violence. Peaceful demonstrations in Tibet turned deadly Friday. A Chinese state-run news agency says 10 people are dead. But Tibet exiles in India cite unconfirmed reports that say at least 100 were killed.
CNN's John Vause has more now from Beijing.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are images of days of defiance. Chinese riot police with sticks, cars set on fire, protesters throwing rocks. Foreign journalists are not free to travel to Tibet, so information is scarce, but human rights groups say Chinese security forces have surrounded the three main temples outside the capital Lhasa and more than a dozen monks have been arrested.
VOICE OF TASI CHOEPHEL, TIBETAN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: In the morning when the monks, on the (INAUDIBLE) temple on the north side of Lhasa, they started a peaceful demonstration and they were blocked by the people's armed police. Later on a scuffle started between the police and the monks. And eventually, they were joined by a bystander.
VAUSE: And the protest the spreading. This is (INAUDIBLE) province, home to a large number of Tibetans. Activists say about 2,000 demonstrators risked jail to fly the Tibetan flag while calling for an independent Tibet.
ROBERT BARNETT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This has been a nightmare scenario for China for some 20 years. They've been trying to avoid protests triggering major unrest among lay people.
VAUSE: By some accounts, the demonstrations in Lhasa are every bit as violent as 20 years ago when Buddhist monks clashed with Chinese troops. The demand then, the same as now, greater independence, more religious freedom. The target of their anger this time appears to be Chinese-owned businesses and ethnic Chinese. Hundreds of thousands of people moved into Tibet by the Chinese government.
The exiled Dalai Lama has accused Beijing of an economic and social policy intended to marginalize Tibetans in their own land. Their policy of population transfer has increased many times, reducing native Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own country. His holiness said on Monday marking the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule which appears to have been the start for the latest protests.
The protests are clearly an attempt to embarrass the Chinese government ahead of the summer Olympics. On Thursday the foreign ministry said the uprising was under control and the work of just a few monks. A day later, we were told this is now a domestic matter.
John Vause, CNN Beijing.
NGUYEN: Well, back in the states and in our backyard, look at this live picture as a storm has slammed through the Atlanta area, in fact a tornado ripped through homes here in the cotton mill district. Our T.J. Holmes is live on the ground and we'll have a look at the damage and the cleanup right after this.
HOLMES: T.J. Holmes here again just east of downtown Atlanta in the Cabbagetown area that was hit hard by the tornado last night. A lot of activity happening in the area now that daylight has hit.
We'll take you to a live picture overhead of one of the local helicopter that are taking pictures of this particular building, these homes, these converted lofts where the top was taken off and also you're seeing the surrounding homes here, some 20 homes destroyed in the Cabbagetown area and you're starting to see as daylight's hit, it's giving us a whole new perspective and telling us just how bad this thing was last night.
Also, we have pictures of this building that is behind me, some pictures we're just getting in and this certainly gives us a different vantage point of what we've been talking about. These converted lofts, the top pancaked in, is how it was described last night by officials. And this is the scene we're seeing now. This certainly gives us a better idea just what happened last night and how this thing pancaked in. The top level of this building pretty much collapsed.
We understand that no one was living in that top area that it did collapse, so that is certainly good news. Also, this entire building we understand, has now been cleared, they had gone through very carefully and meticulously, looking for any people who were possibly trapped. We understand that that is not the case.
So, a lot more to talk about and to cover with this storm that tore through downtown Atlanta and this area where I am in Cabbagetown. But right now, we're going to get you to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and "HOUSE CALL." We'll be back here at the top of the hour with a whole lot more coverage of the tornado.
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