Wildfires Force Gatlinburg to Evacuate and Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Close

A fter Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday comes Weary Wednesday — and not just from all of the so-called promotions and pseudo-sales where a true bargain to be had was rare indeed…

…but tomorrow is also a Weary Wednesday for areas of the southeastern United States, which has been dealing with an exceptional — no exaggeration, as exceptional is its official designation — drought.

The rain may have lasted for 40 days and 40 nights for the biblical legend of Noah and his ark full of animals; but 43 consecutive days passed until Atlanta finally received measurable rainfall last night. That string of days without rain shattered the record of 39 days, which was recorded on Tuesday, October 21, 1884 and remained intact for greater than 132 years, according to this article written by Rodney Harris of WGCL-TV CBS 46 News in Atlanta.

The drought was so bad that wildfires — which are typically more common in the western United States, although Ric Garrido of Loyalty Traveler commented on the record wildfire in Monterey County in California which burned 100 days over the summer and filled the air with smoke and ash for weeks to become the most expensive firefight in the history of the country — sprouted in several states in the southeastern United States. I had already reported in this article earlier this month on the greater Atlanta metropolitan area becoming enshrouded in thick smoke, which was uncomfortable during some times and unbearable during other times. The smoke traveled 90 miles southeast to Atlanta; and at times streaked all the way to the Georgia coast before paralleling the shoreline northeastward all the way to North Carolina.

Wildfires Force Gatlinburg to Evacuate and Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Close

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A view of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with Mount Mitchell — the tallest peak in the United States east of the Mississippi River — in the distance. Photograph ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

Significantly worse is that the deadly wildfires became out of control in parched eastern Tennessee — to the point where the city of Gatlinburg was evacuated; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently closed to visitors, as the headquarters of the park is currently without electrical power and telephone services. Thousands of residents and visitors fled from Pigeon Forge as well as Gatlinburg, where dozens of homes and buildings were completely destroyed in what has been called the worst wildfires in Tennessee at least one hundred years.

A minimum of three people have been reported killed and 14 others injured as a result of the wildfires, according to multiple sources. The source and cause of the fires are not definitively known at this time.

Summary

If you have travel plans to Great Smoky Mountains National Park or destinations in eastern Tennessee in the near future, you may want to postpone those plans until the wildfires are under control and areas of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are rebuilt — or at least keep yourself updated with the latest information.

I have been to Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park — amongst other places in eastern Tennessee, which has some of the more scenic areas of the United States. I absolutely recommend that you travel whenever you do have the opportunity.

The good news is that the weather forecasts call for significant rains to douse the area over the next 24 hours; but the bad news is that the rains may not be enough to completely extinguish the wildfires — and a threat of severe weather may accompany the storm bringing the rains.

The severe weather may include tornados.

My thoughts are with the people in eastern Tennessee tonight in what will be a Weary Wednesday…

Source: Tennessee Highway Patrol.

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