Tornado Causes Atlanta Skyrise to Shift

By: Atlanta CNN Affiliate WSB
By: Atlanta CNN Affiliate WSB

ATLANTA -- It felt like the earth moved Friday night for hundreds of guests at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel.

The tornado that left rubble scattered across downtown Atlanta and other neighborhoods was so powerful it caused the hotel, one of the world's tallest, to shift.

"It's designed to move a couple of feet and I think it did, so we're having structural engineers look at the hotel," Ed Walls, general manager of the hotel told WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Jodie Fleischer.

About 175 windows shattered and will be covered with plywood until the glass can be repaired. The plywood will be painted black so it blends in with the hotel. Glass in the huge atrium that hovers over the lobby cracked and will have to be replaced. So will at least 100 panes in the panels that enclose the elevators clinging to the outside of the hotel and give guests a stomach-dropping ride.

The front desk started getting calls from guests while the tornado was still swirling through downtown. Staffers moved the guests to lower levels.

"We brought them all down to level 6 and 7 in the ballroom areas which were safest at the time," said Walls.

Winds at the upper level of the hotel were so strong on Tuesday, workers making repairs inside the building were wearing safety harnesses so they wouldn't be sucked out the broken windows.

"Overall we fared very well, no injuries and certainly no fatalities; so we're real blessed," said Walls. "It was a pretty good night from that perspective."

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