A severe thunderstorm swept through the west end of the Great Smoky Mountains around 6 p.m. yesterday evening, causing significant tree fall in a line stretching from Metcalf Bottoms across Cades Cove to Abrams Creek. Several emergency responses were underway late last night and the situation was continuing to evolve. Two fatalities have been confirmed – a man who died in a motorcycle accident a half mile east of Townsend Wye, and a woman at Abrams Creek who was killed by a falling tree. There have also been reports of multiple injuries.
At the time of the report around midnight, ambulances were en route to Cades Cove to deal with three injuries and a cardiac incident. Three people in the Abrams Creek area were also injured; one was evacuated by ambulance and two others by helicopter. Many trees are down on both the Little River and Laurel Creek Roads. One lane of each road has been cleared for emergency vehicles.
The Cades Cove and Abrams Creek areas have also received significant tree fall. National Park Service crews have swept all roads in storm-damaged areas to identify stranded motorists and those in need of medical attention. Emergency crews from Blount County are assisting park crews in the area of the Townsend Wye and at Abrams Creek.
At the time of the report, priorities for park crews were to continue to get emergency personnel to individuals in need of medical attention and to evacuate those individuals from the park. Once this was accomplished, the need for overnight clearing operations was to be evaluated. Rangers will continue to work today to ensure all visitors and staff are accounted for and begin to assess needs for emergency response in the park’s backcountry.
The storms produced wind gusts between 60 and 70 miles per hour, a lot of lightning, and left several thousand people without power overnight.
As of this morning, Little River Road from Elkmont to the Townsend Wye, Laurel Creek Road, and the Cades Cove Loop Road are temporarily closed to access damage and facilitate clean up.