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Atlanta Marts See No Major Damage Following Tornado

This city's trade marts and retail centers were spared major damage when a tornado ripped though the downtown district Friday night.

ATLANTA — This city's trade marts and retail centers were spared major damage when a tornado ripped though the downtown district Friday night.

Authorities said 27 people were hurt when the storm, packing winds of as high as 130 miles per hour, hit about 9:45 p.m., cutting across an area six miles long and 200 yards wide.

AmericasMart suffered no major structural damage to its three downtown buildings, but glass and sheetrock on bridges that connect the structures were blown out. There were no shows at the mart this weekend.

The Merchandise Mart had minimal glass damage on the exterior of the top floor, in an area under construction. Streets around AmericasMart reopened on Sunday.

"We'll have everything repaired by Monday," said Virginia Gorday, senior vice president of operations for AmericasMart.

The apparel market will proceed as scheduled on April 4-8 and the tornado should not affect hotel availability, although officials had not fully assessed all the damage, she said.

The tornado damaged the roof of the Georgia Dome, where a Southeastern Conference men's basketball playoff game between Mississippi State and Alabama was under way. Other landmarks, including the CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park, suffered serious damage as the storm blew out windows, uprooted trees and scattered debris over downtown streets.

The storm blew out several windows at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, a hotel that connects to AmericasMart, but the hotel stayed open even as guests were sent to ballroom areas Saturday afternoon when more storms blew through the area, a spokeswoman said.

Most of the 70 shops at the Mall at Peachtree Center, one of the few downtown retail centers, stayed open, although Peachtree Street, which fronts the complex, was shut down.

Retailers had prepared for a busy weekend from sports fans and those attending a dental convention.

"They aren't in a buying mood,'' said Nina Burroughs, manager of the Naturalizer shoe store at the center.
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