News Article | November 29, 2016
Local officials rushed to get people out of towns as a wildfire raced into Tennessee's Sevier County on Monday evening. At least three people were killed in the blaze, according to The Associated Press, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday morning that at least four people were taken to hospitals with burns. More than 14,000 people evacuated from the town of Gatlinburg alone — images posted on Twitter by the Tennessee Highway Patrol showed state troopers carrying luggage through neighborhoods surrounded by flames. The nearby town of Pigeon Forge was also threatened. "There was fire everywhere. It was like we were in hell. Hell opened up," a resident named Linda Monholland told the AP. On Tuesday morning, the extent of the destruction was becoming clear; overnight, the fire damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in Gatlinburg, according to the state's emergency management agency. Dean Flener with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency told local TV station News Channel 5 that Monday night was "devastating" for the town. "The likes of this has never been seen here," Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "But the worst is definitely over with." More than 11,500 people didn't have power on Tuesday morning. Schools were closed in two affected counties. And Dollywood, the Pigeon Forge theme park founded by country music star Dolly Parton, was also closed on Tuesday — a spokesperson for the park told USA Today the night before that nothing there had been damaged so far. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are both popular tourist destinations at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where park officials banned all fires earlier this month amid concerns about dry conditions and widespread wildfires in other parts of the Southeastern U.S. But the burn ban did not prevent the so-called Chimney Top Fire, which park spokesman Warren Bielenberg told the Asheville Citizen-Times was started by a human, and which ballooned from about 10 acres on Sunday to 500 acres on Monday. "The Chimney Top Fire ... spread very rapidly [Monday] evening as high winds pushed flames onto private property," the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said in a press release. A wind advisory remained in effect for the area through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, fanning not only the Chimney Top Fire but dozens of other blazes burning in eastern Tennessee, eastern North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. As The Two-Way has reported, the entire southeastern U.S. is under extreme drought conditions — in some areas, little or no rain has fallen in the past six months, hurting farmers and creating dangerously dry conditions.
News Article | November 30, 2016
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is closed, and thousands of residents in the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, have fled their homes after a wildfire from the park turned into a rapidly spreading inferno last night (Nov. 28). At least 14,000 people have evacuated from the two resort towns, and hundreds of structures have been damaged or destroyed, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. But how did a forest fire spread so rapidly that it trapped some visitors inside a local hotel, filming the flames as the blaze approached the parking lot? [Natural Disasters: Top 10 US Threats] Most of East Tennessee has been in exceptional or severe drought all summer, said Sam Roberts, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service forecast office in Morristown, Tennessee. At the Knoxville, Tennessee, airport monitoring station, precipitation is down 10.29 inches (26 centimeters) from the annual average, Roberts told Live Science. In the state's Tri-Cities area, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Gatlinburg, precipitation is down 9.65 inches (25 cm) over the yearly average. And in Chattanooga in the far southeast corner of the state, precipitation has been a whopping 21.5 inches (55 cm) below average. "If they don't get too much more rain, this will be the driest year on record for them," Roberts said. A ridge of high atmospheric pressure parked over the U.S. Southeast has kept rain at bay over the summer, Roberts said, setting the stage for the current conflagration. As of Nov. 23, a small section of the northeastern corner of Tennessee is in moderate drought, while the rest of the state struggles under severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. [Dry and Dying: Images of Drought] Wildfire activity has been above normal in the eastern part of the state, Roberts said, but even without precipitation, firefighting efforts seemed to have controlled the situation in recent days. "Over the past week or so, things had started to settle down a little bit," he said. That is, they had until Monday night. On Sunday, a fire started at Chimney Tops, a popular hiking peak inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The blaze had spread to around 500 acres in size when a strong front traveling from the southwest brought gusty winds to the area, Roberts said. "They were getting gusts up there to 40, 50, 60 mph [64 to 97 km/h]," he said. "Because the fuels were so dry because of the drought, the wind just absolutely accelerated these fires at a very, very fast pace." The winds also sent the fire racing downslope, which is relatively rare, said Brad Panovich, the chief meteorologist at WCNC-NBC TV in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Heat rises and so you tend to get fire burning up the slope," Panovich said. "It tends to burn downslope real slow." But in Gatlinburg, the twin pressures of wind and blowing dry leaves sent the blaze downhill, with flaming leaves sparking the fire's spread. The winds also knocked over power lines, sparking new fires, Panovich told Live Science. Nature offered a slice of relief between midnight and 7 a.m. local time today, as Gatlinburg got between an inch and three-quarters inches of rain [1.3 to 2 centimeters], Roberts said. That precipitation helped dampen ground fuels like leaf litter, but large logs, timber and structures are still hot, he said. "Right now, things are in much better shape than they were last night, but they are still dealing with some hotspots," Roberts said. The greatest danger to Gatlinburg and surrounding areas now is another front that will bring in gusts of winds of between 15 and 30 mph (24 and 48 km/h) tonight (Nov. 29), Roberts said. Perhaps an inch of rain will follow those winds, starting after midnight, and this should help firefighting efforts, he said. "The precipitation will come in," Roberts said. "It's just [that] we're going to have to deal with the winds first."
News Article | November 30, 2016
Wildfires Still Burn In Tennessee As Death Toll Rises To At Least 7 In eastern Tennessee, deadly wildfires are still burning and authorities say it's still too dangerous for thousands of people to return to their damaged and destroyed homes and businesses. On Wednesday, authorities in Gatlinburg, Tenn., said the confirmed death toll had grown to seven people, reported The Associated Press. Search and rescue crews from local law enforcement agencies and the National Guard combed through the remains of buildings looking for survivors. Dozens of people were injured in and around the tourist town at the foot of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where forested neighborhoods turned into hellscapes in a matter of hours Monday night. "There were rivers of fire," Gatlinburg resident Ric Morgan told the Knoxville News Sentinel. He said he escaped after a neighbor saw him waving a flashlight in his window as flames raced down toward his apartment. Cindy Davenport arrived in town Tuesday to help her elderly father, who was evacuated from his home. She told the newspaper, "He said he could see the fire, and he's blind." In all, about 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg and about 500 from nearby Pigeon Forge, according to Tennessee's emergency management agency. Officials rushed to get people out of town as the fire, which began inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, screamed into town on strong winds. On Tuesday and Wednesday, even as rain fell on the region, Gatlinburg's fire chief, Greg Miller, said eight new fires erupted, reported The Tennessean. Miller said the strength of the wind and the speed of the fire combined with the severe drought conditions the region has been suffering for months to create a situation that caught firefighters off guard, as Nashville Public Radio reported: " 'There were times ... where we had wind gusts in excess of 87 miles an hour. That is hurricane force. That is nowhere to be when trying to fight a fire,' Miller said. Embers blew as far as a mile away, sparking new fires. "At the same time we were facing that challenge, those high winds were knocking down trees. Those trees were hitting power lines and they were falling on this very dry, extreme drought-like condition, and everything was catching on fire." In all, the fire has destroyed more than 150 homes and businesses in Sevier County. On Wednesday morning, more than 10,000 people still didn't have power in the area. The Red Cross said about 1,100 people remained in emergency shelters. Even as firefighters continued to work to contain blazes outside town, authorities were beginning to assess the damage in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Gatlinburg. On some residential cul-de-sacs, only building foundations remain. Where there once were red-tinged leafy forests, there are only the spindly trunks of charred trees. The Tennessee Highway Patrol went door to door Wednesday checking on residents and sharing information about shelters — Gatlinburg was still under a mandatory evacuation order. Road were still closed on Wednesday, according to the state department of transportation, as more than 100 members of the Tennessee National Guard helped transportation and utility workers remove debris from roads into and out of town. Rain falling in the region could help extinguish the fires, but Tennessee Public Radio reported it is also complicating search and rescue efforts, causing "small mudslides on slopes where there's no longer any brush to hold the ground in place."
News Article | February 15, 2017
Venture Resorts (https://www.cabinsofthesmokymountains.com), Gatlinburg’s largest cabin rental company, has announced a special Winter Sale. For the next two weekends travelers can save 50% off regular cabin rates. The sale is valid for stays from January 27-29 and February 3-5. “The Smokies are celebrating Winter, and it’s a great time to visit,” says Billy Parris, Venture Resorts’ General Manager. “We’re offering some great rates, especially for this coming weekend.” This weekend the city of Townsend is hosting its Smoky Mountain Snowdown festival, featuring traditional Appalachian music, crafts and food. In addition, the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge continue their annual Winterfest celebration. With Venture Resorts Winter Sale, a two-bedroom cabin like the company’s “Lazy Day” is available for as little as $59 per night during the January 27-29 weekend, and $90 per night during the February 3-5 weekend. The same cabin would rent for $205 per night during peak season. Three-bedroom lodging like the company’s “Rolling Stone” cabin can be rented for as little as $75 per night this weekend, and as $135 per night during the February 3-5 weekend. Peak season rates for the same cabin are $295 per night. Cabin rates are subject to availability. The cabins cited above are available at the time of writing, but may be booked by press time. Guests can visit the company's web site to see rates for all currently available cabins, with Winter Sale discounts applied at the time of booking. Venture Resorts manages over 400 rental cabins in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. All cabins are modern, family-friendly accommodations with features such as full kitchens, spacious living rooms, hot tubs and game rooms. For more details, visit the company's website at https://www.cabinsofthesmokymountains.com/specials.php or call (866) 347-6659. The promotion is not available for existing reservations. Discounts do not apply to cleaning, resort and other fees. About Cabins of the Smoky Mountains Cabins of the Smoky Mountains is the largest luxury cabin rental agency serving Sevier County. The company offers over 400 cabins within minutes of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For more information, contact at Cabins of the Smoky Mountains, 653 Hidden Valley Rd., Gatlinburg, TN 37738, (866) 347-6659, (865) 277-1160. Visit their websites at https://www.cabinsofthesmokymountains.com and https://www.cabinsofpigeonforge.com.
News Article | December 7, 2016
The City of Gatlinburg, Tennessee has officially announced the date it plans to reopen to the general public. Gatlinburg was recently affected by wildfires in the Gatlinburg area and has been closed to the public, but the city is ready to reopen for business. You can start visiting Gatlinburg again on Friday, December 9, 2016 at 7:00 a.m. Major roads, including the Gatlinburg Parkway, will be open to the public at this time. Some city roadways may remain closed for construction and utility work, but that will not affect any vacation plans in the area. Everything visitors love about Gatlinburg will be opening on Friday morning - and the Gatlinburg area is excited to welcome visitors for their next vacation getaway. The best way to support the area, and to help the residents and businesses of the Smoky Mountain communities, is to plan a vacation. VisitMySmokies.com features all of the best Gatlinburg attractions, restaurants, shops and events for your vacation. In addition, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has nearly 245,000 acres of land on the Tennessee side alone, so there’s plenty of hiking trails and places to get out and explore the nature and wildlife in the mountains. For the latest information about how to donate to families who were affected by the wildfires and other ways to help, please go to the official website for Smoky Mountain area recovery efforts, MountainTough.org. Established in 2009, Visit My Smokies is the only site visitors need to plan a vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains. Owned by Sevier County, Tenn., the program promotes travel and tourism for the area, including Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area lodging, attractions, dining and shopping. All offices are located at: 125 Court Ave., Suite 102 E, Sevierville, TN 37862.
News Article | December 21, 2016
Life in Smoky Mountains is getting back to normal after the recent Gatlinburg fires. Venture Resorts (https://www.cabinsofthesmokymountains.com), the largest vacation rental company in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, today reported that nearly 90% of its vacation cabins were untouched by the recent wildfires. “The fires were definitely scary, and our hearts go out to those who lost their homes,” says Billy Parris, general manager of Venture Resorts, “Things would have been a lot worse, except for heroic efforts by area firefighters.” Partly because of those efforts, Parris says that the vast majority of his company’s rental cabins were untouched by the Gatlinburg fire. Parris reports that Venture Resorts has more than 400 vacation cabins that were unaffected. “We did lose some cabins,” says Parris, “But immediately after the fire we rebooked guests scheduled to stay in those cabins and moved them to an unaffected cabin, or we refunded their money.” Wildfires swept through the area on November 29th, and the city of Gatlinburg was placed under an evacuation order. Firefighters battled fires in multiple locations throughout Sevierville County. The fires were a tragedy that resulted in 14 deaths. In total, forest fires burned 14,000 acres - approximately 23 square miles- within Sevierville County and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, Parris points out that Sevierville County and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are over 1,400 square miles in size. “If you think about it, less than 2% of the land area burned,” he says. Parris says that he is concerned that misconceptions about the fires may keep travelers away from the Smokies. “Depending on where you stay, you may see little or no evidence of the fire,” says Parris. “All of the major tourist attractions in the area are open and doing fine.” Despite initial reports that Ober Gatlinburg ski resort was damaged, and that Dollywood was threatened, both venues were undamaged by the fire. Since the fires, life in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is returning to normal. Both cities are hosting their annual Winterfest, and the area is hosting its well-known Christmas light shows, including Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. “The Smokies are still beautiful,” says Parris, “And all of us in Gatlinburg are lucky to live and work here.” About Venture Resorts Venture Resorts is the largest luxury cabin rental agency in the Smoky Mountains, managing over 400 cabins within minutes of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and family-friendly attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. For more information, call (866) 347-6659 or visit one of the company’s web sites https://www.cabinsofthesmokymountains.com or https://www.cabinsofpigeonforge.com.
News Article | December 1, 2016
(Reuters) - The death toll from wildfires blazing in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee rose to seven on Wednesday even as drenching rains helped firefighters suppress flames that have left whole neighborhoods in ruins.
News Article | December 2, 2016
(Reuters) - The death toll from a devastating blaze in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee rose to 11 on Thursday, the highest loss of civilian life from a single U.S. wildfire in 13 years.
News Article | December 1, 2016
"The death toll from wildfires blazing in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee rose to seven on Wednesday even as drenching rains helped firefighters suppress flames that have left whole neighborhoods in ruins. The tally of documented property losses from the fires also climbed to more than 700 structures damaged or destroyed throughout Sevier County, including at least 300 in the resort town of Gatlinburg. On Tuesday, authorities reported about 150 structures damaged or destroyed by fire."
News Article | February 15, 2017
Sidney James Mountain Lodge in Gatlinburg, TN is open for business following the recent wildfires in the Smoky Mountain area. Fortunately, Sidney James Mountain Lodge sustained no damages during the wildfires and has continued to remain open for visitors looking for the best place to stay in Gatlinburg. This family-owned hotel is located less than a half mile from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is also within walking distance to many of the area’s most popular restaurants and attractions. “We are incredibly thankful that the wildfires did not affect our hotel, and we are looking forward to serving visitors throughout the new year,” said Sid Maples, Owner/Operator of Sidney James Mountain Lodge. The best way to support the Gatlinburg area and help its residents and businesses is to plan a vacation. Sidney James Mountain Lodge accommodations include rooms with private balconies overlooking a mountain stream, pet-friendly rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, a poolside cafe, sauna and a meeting room available to guests. Sidney James Mountain Lodge also runs specials and discounts throughout the year. You can save money on your vacation and even receive free nights added to your stay with their special offers here: http://sidneyjames.com/specials-discounts/. Like Sidney James Mountain Lodge, all other businesses, restaurants and attractions in downtown Gatlinburg are open and ready for visiting as well. Sidney James Mountain Lodge was established as a family business in the 1950s, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The hotel continues to offer guests the best Gatlinburg vacation experience. Sidney James Mountain Lodge is located at 610 Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. For additional information about Sidney James Mountain Lodge, visit their website at http://sidneyjames.com/ or give them a call at (800) 876-6888.