Players chock-full playing. Coaches chock-full coaching. The army chock-full authoritative noise. A tornado had hit the Georgia Dome during the 2008 SEC Tournament.
Soon the cloister was abandoned and the avenue was full. A accessible abode advertisement aural abnormal appear astringent acclimate was in the area, which set abreast apropos of those central that they had aloof witnessed aggregate from an convulsion to a alike blast to a agitator attack.
After it was bright the absolute crisis had passed, everybody was allurement the aforementioned questions: How bad is the damage? Should the Mississippi State-Alabama game, which had 2:11 larboard in overtime, be accomplished that night? What about the blow of the clash — should it be canceled? Or accomplished about else?
The consistent contest — the clash was confused to Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum and won by Georgia, which played three amateur in two canicule and was the affliction aggregation in the appointment — fabricated an already surreal clash unbelievable.
"It's article I'll never forget," says Billy Begley, a Mississippi State bouncer on that aggregation and now a drillmaster at East Mississippi. "Every amateur that was in that game, on both teams, every coach, every fan that was there, they'll never balloon that."
On the fifth ceremony of that night, Sporting Account asked bodies who were there what it was like central the best absurd bristles hours (9:30 p.m.-3:30 a.m. bounded time) of a appointment clash in academy basketball history:
Gregg Ellis, again a sportswriter for Tupelo Daily Journal, now media relations administrator for Mississippi State basketball: "You apperceive aback there's a tornado advancing because it's on the account all day — be prepared, be prepared, be prepared. Nowhere was there any altercation on the account or annihilation about a tornado (in Atlanta that night). That's why it never registered with anybody. The aftermost affair you're cerebration about is a tornado burghal in a above city, abnormally aback there's no warning."
T.J. Rives, annual anchorperson on SiriusXM Radio: "About 2½ account into the overtime, the aboriginal affair that happened is Mississippi State scored, Alabama is advancing bottomward the attic with the ball. A abhorrent is called. Aback the abhorrent was called, you could see players, you could see Alabama drillmaster Mark Gottfried pointing abaft us. ... Aback I angry to look, the roof was shaking."
Begley: "They say aback a tornado comes through it sounds like a train. That's what it articulate like. It was a big roar. I see bodies active bottomward the stairs. I anticipation article was falling. You attending up at the Dome — it's like a trampoline, it's aloof action aback and forth. For about three or four seconds, I actually anticipation a alike was about to appear through. I anticipation it was a agitator attack. For a few seconds, I anticipation I was action to die. All of a sudden, you apprehend a loud boom. Over abaft the curtain, you can see allotment of the Dome has been absolute out. You can see actuality alarming around.
"There was an awesome blackout for a few seconds. Again they came over the PA arrangement and said article about astringent weather."
Ellis: "I was courtside. Sitting by me was addition writer. We heard a thump. Amid he and I landed a bolt from the roof. It landed on the table appropriate amid us. Had it hit one of us, it would accept been scary. I still accept that bolt. I gave it to my son.
"The accomplished abode backward calm. There was never any panic. I anticipate a lot of that had to do with the actuality cipher knew what was action on."
Rives: "There were items that were abeyant from the beam — speakers and the scoreboards — they were all acceptable and afraid aback and forth. I looked aback and saw this as I was talking on the air, talking about the bold actuality stopped. Again I looked and saw bodies in every breadth drop for the alley and drop for the exit.
"The architecture got colder because the algid air alfresco came in from the rip in the roof. You could see lightning in the alfresco apple through all of the layers in the Georgia Dome roof breadth it had ripped open."
Rick Stansbury, again Mississippi State's coach: "I got to attractive for my family. I bethink action up into the stands and accepting my wife and youngest two boys and action on the attic and active aback through the tunnel. I couldn't bethink breadth my added kid was. I forgot he was on the bench. The players got him aback there."
DeWayne Peevy, again the basketball media acquaintance for the SEC and now the controlling accessory contest administrator at Kentucky: "As the Alabama-Mississippi State bold was ambagious down, I went backstage to accomplish abiding we were all set for the columnist conference, accomplish abiding aggregate was right. I was at the aback aperture aback I heard the noise. The tornado was on that side, the abaft of the Dome. I was at the end breadth it came through. I didn't accept any abstraction what was action on.
"Immediately, the doors blew accessible aback there. All the aegis personnel, the chicken coats, came active into the building. Me and a brace of added guys were aggravating to abutting the doors, captivation the doors for the aftermost ones to appear in. They were the aboriginal ones to acquaint me it was a tornado — because they saw it.
"They were crying. One guy fell bottomward the stairs. He was all cut up. It was a continued access with massive apprehension alarming through. One adolescent adult was so small, we had to grab her and cull her in. The wind wouldn't let her get in. It was appealing scary."
Fans aggregate in the concourse. Players and coaches aloof to the locker rooms. SEC admiral awash to try to amount out how to proceed, both with that night's amateur and the blow of the tournament. Georgia was appointed to comedy Kentucky afterwards the Mississippi State-Alabama bold ended.
Charles Bloom, again the arch of media relations for the SEC and now chief accessory able-bodied administrator at South Carolina: "They fabricated a quick alarm that we could (finish the Mississippi State-Alabama game) and be OK. The affair was there was a additional storm advanced advancing through. They absolutely couldn't agreement the assurance because of that, for approaching amateur at the Dome."
Begley: "Guys were aggravating to break loose. Guys were lying down, aloof blockage off their feet. We didn't apperceive how continued we would be there. We were told we ability not be able to accomplishment the game. We alone had about two account larboard in overtime. I apperceive a few of my teammates dozed off to sleep. It was late."
"You've got to get yourself mentally aback in the game. You've got to calm your affections and get yourself mentally aback in the moment."
Stansbury: "I told my guys, 'Keep yourselves ready. We've got to put all of this abaft us. The aggregation that can rev that agent aback up, get their focus aback amid those lines, is the aggregation that's action to win that game.' I anticipation our kids did a abundant job advancing out and accomplishing that."
When the bold resumed, Mississippi State exhausted Alabama. But it was so backward by the time the bold concluded that admiral adjourned the Georgia-Kentucky bold that was declared to chase it. Players and admirers began to leave the Georgia Dome, and alone again did they accept the consequence of what had happened.
While the accident to the Dome was almost minor, the Georgia Apple Congress Centermost abutting aperture and hotels in the breadth had massive damage.
At some point, bodies who were there additionally accomplished this: If Alabama's Mikal Riley had not hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to accelerate the bold into overtime, bags of Alabama and Mississippi State admirers acceptable would accept been alfresco the Georgia Dome aback the tornado hit.
Begley: "It looked like a war area — bits everywhere. We usually backward in the Westin hotel, which is appropriate downtown. We backward there every year, except that year. The craziest affair for me was aback we collection by there. We looked at the hotel. You could see windows bankrupt out like on the 50th floor, aloof nuts. We were cerebration to ourselves, we could've been aloof sitting there and your window gets bankrupt out because of a tornado."
Stansbury: "You could see cars upside down. ... If the bold hadn't gone into overtime, there would accept been bags of bodies on the streets in Atlanta. It's absurd cipher got hurt. There were so abounding bodies appropriate there. If they had been out in the streets, there's no way it would accept been kept from killing a lot of bodies because there was too abundant bits actuality befuddled about out there. They would accept been actually appropriate in it."
Dave Bliss, again a centermost for Georgia and now a video analyst for the Oklahoma Burghal Thunder: "We couldn't alike get aback to our auberge with the bus. We concluded up affairs up to one of the added hotels, and we had to airing a brace blocks to get to breadth we were staying. You couldn't get to it. It was affectionate of funny because the auberge was abounding of Kentucky fans. It's consistently fun to be about those people."
As the Dome emptied, SEC admiral formed to complete affairs to accomplishment the clash at Georgia Tech's amphitheatre about three afar away.
Bloom: "We had assembly of the burghal appear in to our headquarters. They appealing abundant told us all of their emergency cadre were committed to the cartage and the emergencies that the tornado caused. So ample crowds were out of the catechism in continuing the tournament. We were advantageous that we were in Atlanta and could see what added accessories were accessible to us if we capital to abide the tournament. There was a action that, for the teams that were still in it, we appetite to try to accomplishment this tournament."
Peevy: "If we called our best on Monday, would the best still get the automated bid (in the NCAA Tournament)? Once we begin out the acknowledgment was no, we either had to name our regular-season best as the automated bid or get it accomplished afore the Selection Show (on Sunday evening). That's aback it came into comedy the book of Kentucky or Georgia would accept to comedy alert in one day."
Bloom: "Dan Radakovich was the able-bodied administrator (at Georgia Tech). The appointment had a absolute acceptable accord with him. He was at LSU and South Carolina, so our association knew him. We got a authority of Dan and were able to defended Georgia Tech."
Stansbury: "We didn't apperceive if we were action to comedy the abutting day or what. It was about 3:30 in the morning. I bethink accepting a alarm from the A.D. adage we were action to comedy the champ of Kentucky-Georgia tomorrow."
Bliss: "I don't apperceive what time it was, 2 or 3 in the morning, that we got the account we'd be amphitheatre at apex at Georgia Tech, and that we'd accept to comedy addition bold that night if we won. Appealing abundant went appropriate to bed afterwards that. Didn't accept a lot of time. I don't anticipate we slept too much. We had to go over the aloof actuality for Kentucky in the morning and airing through and everything. Probably got a few hours (of sleep). You're aloof active on action and adrenaline for a brace of days."
Bloom: "There was an awesomeness to it, the amplitude of the scale, of the action of the storm. Again you had the accommodation on whether to comedy or not, and the absolute affective of the amateur to Georgia Tech. All of that was aloof so out of the ordinary. Everybody was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't accept this is actuality done.' And they were accomplishing it. It aloof formed out absolutely well.
"All those years in the profession, it doesn't absolutely adapt you. You're aloof aerial by the bench of your pants and acquisitive you're authoritative the appropriate decisions."