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TIM BRANDO REPORTING THAT TORNADO HIT TOP OF GEORGIA DOME AT SEC TOURNAMENT

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Now reporting that outside the arena, debris is everywhere. Used the term "war zone," but that's most certainly hyperbole, right?

Update [2008-3-14 22:18:10 by Joel]: Authorities are checking out the building to see if it's structurally sound and whether play can continue. The Alabama-Mississippi State game was in OT w/ 2:11 left when play was stopped. Cameramen abandoned their scaffolding and high-tailed it down the spiral stairs to safety. Security personnel intervened quickly to thwart a potential stampede for the exits.

Update [2008-3-14 22:24:52 by Joel]: According to ESPN, "[a] section of the dome's roof was ripped open, dropping debris." There was a tornado warning in effect at the time, but they don't know yet whether it was actually a tornado or just a severe storm.

Update [2008-3-14 22:26:59 by Joel]: From SI.com:

"I thought it was a tornado or a terrorist attack,'' said Mississippi State guard Ben Hansbrough, who was guarding Alabama's Mykal Riley when a rumbling noise was heard from above. Both teams stopped and looked toward the Teflon-coated Fiberglas fabric roof, which is designed to flex slightly during high wind, but was rippling heavily in the storm, much like waves rolling toward the shore.

And more from the same article:

Several fans and at least one reporter on press row said metal bolts and washers fell from the ceiling, though there were no immediate reports of injuries. A pipe ripped a hole in the roof.

I've been in touch with The Sporting News' Spencer Hall, who is posting asap. I'll send the link as soon as it's live.

Update [2008-3-14 22:30:38 by Joel]: Tim Brando, calling the game for Raycom, just held up a metal washer that he said fell from the roof. So can it really be structurally sound?

Update [2008-3-14 22:32:23 by Joel]: Video of outside the Dome shows significant debris. Not quite war zone, but significant, especially in light of the fact that all of that was at ground level. Must have been something up at the top.

Update [2008-3-14 22:32:55 by Joel]: Haven't read it yet, but here's the link from Spencer.

Go read the whole thing from Spencer -- his take is always amusing -- but here's an excerpt:

The scaffolding supporting the skin of the dome began to shake, and the big screens hung from the ceiling swung like tin signs from the vibration. A couple of sportswriters sitting in front of me ducked beneath their table. A few more stood around looking at the lights sway.
Knowing Spencer, he's probably actually heard the sound of bowling balls in a dryer.

Photo credit: Spencer Hall, used with permission:

Let's play Count the People on Their Cell Phones!

Update [2008-3-14 22:41:48 by Joel]: Okay, well, it's been about an hour, and all reports are that everybody's fine. The teams are back on the floor warming back up. Play will resume in another minute or so, and the Kentucky-Georgia game will start about 20:00 after that.

Update [2008-3-14 23:19:37 by hooper]:Just to add a few thoughts on the debris and on the condition of the roof. While I'm not a structural engineer (or even close, really), I have no knowledge of the condition of the roof other than what the TV guys stated, and I have to guess at a few gaps of knowledge, I can clear up a couple of things the journalists don't know about.

First, there is a difference between "structural" and "superficial" building materials. The structural materials are load-bearing; the superficial materials are not (think your skeleton and your skin). The bolts and washers that the announcers were displaying are likely not significant structural features. That is, they're not a part of the skeleton of the Dome. More likely, those belonged to whatever attached the "skin" to the structure in the sections that are now loose. The serious structural materials are held together by welds and bolts of a much larger variety.

Second (and way past my expertise), those structures are designed for such "dynamic" loads like tornados, high winds, earthquakes, etc. While not every condition can be fully anticipated, they architects and engineers can do a fantastic job of safeguarding against quite severe weather. I would guess that the storm data will be fed into some simulations during the post-event analysis in order to see how much wear that the Dome experienced. If they determine that the wear was significant enough, you'll hear about the repairs later on.

There's really not much more to add, based on the information available. But when the announcers mentioned significant structural damage on some of the camera shots, they were in fact looking at superficial damage. We, as viewers, did not see concrete evidence of structural damage to the facility (at least in the sense of its ability to keep standing).

Add the usual disclaimers of a lack of info, a lack of expertise, and so on. Take the above with the appropriate grain of salt, and amend as any better information is made available. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot and enjoy!

Update [2008-3-15 0:8:57 by Joel]: Well, the Kentucky-Georgia game has been postponed. SECSports.com is unavailable as of this moment.

Update [2008-3-15 9:12:31 by Joel]:Pictures from the area, from ScottAtlanta82:

Update [2008-3-15 9:19:0 by Joel]:More pics from Spencer here, including this one, again used with permission:

Update [2008-3-15 9:23:47 by Joel]: And one more, the live t.v. feed of the game:

Update [2008-3-15 9:28:50 by Joel]:And still more from Spencer, who's all kinds of awesome:

Of the things I'd never thought would cross my mind, this thought's up there: . . . How many of the sportswriters surrounding me can run to the bowels of the Georgia Dome without tearing an ACL? And if we're trapped here, which ones will I eat for food?
It looks like everything's been moved to Georgia Tech and that one team will have to play two games today.