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Houses smashed in artists' Cabbagetown

  • Story Highlights
  • Some homes damaged, others unscathed in Atlanta's Cabbagetown district
  • The community of shotgun-style homes is home to artists and students
  • Neighbors surveyed damage Saturday and offered help to each other
  • Church is damaged, says pastor, but he plans to give Palm Sunday sermon
  • Next Article in U.S. »
By Ashley Fantz
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- It's a neighborhood of shotgun houses painted a rainbow of colors, a community of artists, workaday folks and students where everyone knows everyone's name.

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Destruction in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown district, which many artists call home.

Saturday morning, people were out walking their dogs, sipping coffee and taking a look at who was hit the worst in Atlanta's Cabbagetown district. It appeared Friday night's 130 mph tornado had delivered its wrath randomly -- some houses were perfectly intact while others were flooded and smashed.

"It's a sad thing," said 56-year-old Bertha Wise, standing next to a splintered tree that had buried her car and blocked a side-door to her yellow and cobalt-blue house. A sign advertising her hand-crafted art, which she sells from her home, hung slightly askew.

"I was cooking dinner and the lights started to flicker," she said. "There was no warning. My door flung open and papers went flying. By that time, there was nowhere to go."

Without a basement, she hunkered down and hoped for the best.

But Wise fared well compared with her neighbors in this historic neighborhood, which has gone from crime-ridden to cool in recent years.

A few blocks down, a woman named Rebecca -- too distraught to speak with a reporter -- carried what belongings she had left out of her rental home, which had been split in half by a giant oak tree. Video Watch residents describe the storm's quick arrival »

She wasn't at home at the time, her landlord Mark Rogers told CNN, which was a good thing for her safety. But in the early morning hours, looters got there before she had and took almost everything.

Looting was a problem throughout the neighborhood, many said. Photo See photos of the damage »

A few doors down from her, Pastor Richard Davis stared up at the tire-size hole in the roof of his Eastside Christian Community Pentecostal Church. He has been preaching in its single room for 10 years.

"Yes...well, that is something isn't it?" he said, then gestured to the church's bathroom -- a brick yellow outhouse. "That's still here though. We'll be OK."

He plans to give a sermon on Palm Sunday and ask his parishioners to pray hard that lack of insurance won't force him to close his doors.

Steven and Laura Powell, thinking they were in store for a short lightning storm, were startled by the storm's quick escalation.

They were frightened when they spotted the storm beginning to circulate in the distance from their tiny home, and rushed to scoop up their sleeping 5-week-old Audrey.

Bundled in a soft pink onesie, Audrey was still sleeping Saturday morning as her parents walked the neighborhood, amazed that their home had not been damaged -- and that their daughter had snoozed through the entire ordeal.

"I just put myself on top of [Laura] and the baby and we got under the strongest beam in the house," said Steven Powell. "I thought that if a tree came crashing through, I'd take the brunt of it."

Cabbagetown's houses were built for the workers at the local Fulton Cotton Mill. The mill closed and the neighborhood slid into decay.

The renaissance of Cabbagetown began when the mill buildings were converted to the trendy Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts and the artists and urban pioneers moved in.

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In addition to hitting the houses, Friday night's tornado seriously damaged the top floor of the lofts. Remarkably, nobody was hurt.

Cabbagetown residents remember when the under-construction lofts survived a five-alarm fire in 1999 -- and say they plan to rebuild and survive this disaster as well. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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