Tornado aftermath has little impact on Thrashers game

ATLANTA -- Greg Keith had no trouble driving to Philips Arena on Wednesday night.

Five days after a tornado tore through downtown Atlanta, Keith took his usual seat for an Atlanta Thrashers game.

"I normally take a different route from my home in Kennesaw, but there was no problem doing another way down Northside Drive," said Keith, a 44-year-old Internet technology executive. "It wasn't a big deal at all."

The Thrashers hosted the first sporting event since the storm cut a six-mile path in the city and left 27 people injured on Friday night. Statewide, two deaths were reported in Northwest Georgia and property damages were an estimated $250 million.

Though a tornado swept over the nearby Georgia Dome and caused the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament to move to Georgia Tech over the weekend, nearby Philips Arena was essentially unharmed.

"There was no structural damage to our facility," arena vice president Trey Feazell said. "We had some panels we lost from a transition wall in our lower and our upper levels on the International [Drive] side across from the World Congress Center. Our parking deck, the one they keep showing on TV, had some damage, but we were fortunate to escape structural damage."

Marietta Street, which borders the arena's side across from Centennial Olympic Park, remained closed on Wednesday. Nine other roads were sealed off from traffic before the game.

Some debris that blew off hotels, townhouses and office buildings still lay along roadsides, but the most notable damage from street levels was windows blown out of tall structures like the Westin Peachtree Plaza, the Georgia Pacific building and Centennial Tower.

Philips Arena, which seats approximately 18,750 for hockey games, was about half-full for the Thrashers' 5-3 loss to Carolina.

"We came to the game easily," said Nicole Lentz, a 17-year-old Marietta resident who watched the game with friend Beth Yabrouw. "It wasn't a big deal at all."