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Atlanta tornado safety: Taking cover at MARTA stations

Storm approaching Midtown Atlanta
Storm approaching Midtown Atlanta
Photo courtesy Clinton Steeds/Flickr.com

Back in March 2008, basketball fans experienced unexpected rumbling as a tornado passed through downtown Atlanta, shattering glass at the Omni and Westin hotels, toppling torch lights at Centennial Olympic Park and taking out the top corner of the Cotton Mill Lofts. The tornado came and went before many had time to take cover or realize what was going on. If tornadoes happened again, would you know where to go to be safe?

Heading to a basement or low level that has no exterior walls or windows is best procedure. Enter MARTA's underground stations, which, in an emergency, can provide solid protection if you happen to be driving, walking or in a non-sturdy building nearby when a tornado is sighted. Here are the safest stations to head to for shelter:

Downtown
The Five Points MARTA station at the intersection of Peachtree and Marietta Streets is two levels deep underground and has entrances off of Broad Street, Peachtree Street and Forsyth Street.

One stop north, the Peachtree Center MARTA station was engineered out of solid gneiss rock and is 120 feet below Peachtree Street near the intersection with Andrew Young International Blvd. (Talk about serious protection from the elements.) Look for the round Westin Hotel as a landmark. Entrances to the station are near the public library, Ellis Street near the Georgia Pacific Building, Ray's in the City and below the Peachtree Center Mall.

The Dome MARTA station next to Philips Arena, the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center is also deep underground, and is a good destination if you happen to be in Centennial Olympic Park or a nearby restaurant.

Midtown
All the Midtown stations are underground and just off West Peachtree Street: North Avenue, Midtown and Arts Center. Enter the North Avenue station off North Avenue, Ponce de Leon or 3rd Street. Midtown is at 10th Street and the Arts Center station is at 15th Street behind the Woodruff Arts Center.

Buckhead
Like Midtown, all of the Buckhead stations are underground. Next to Ga. 400 and across from the Atlanta Financial Center, the Buckhead MARTA station has a pedestrian tunnel underneath Peachtree Road -- but avoid the train platform during severe weather. If you're closer to the mall, the Lenox MARTA station is at the intersection of Lenox Road and East Paces Ferry. You can enter the station there or near where Oak Valley Road intersects with East Paces Ferry Road.

Perimeter
Sandy Springs is the only underground MARTA station outside of I-285. Luckily there is plenty of free parking at the station if you'd like to take cover there. The station's address is 1101 Mount Vernon Highway, at the intersection with Abernathy Road. There's a nearby Ga. 400 exit -- look for exit 5 if you're driving.

Decatur
Almost all the stations on the east-west rail line are above ground accept for the Decatur MARTA station in Downtown Decatur. If you're in the nearby area, consider heading here to take cover. Enter off of Church Street or Swanton Way.