High wind leads to close call for workers rebuilding Gatlinburg home after wildfires

GATLINBURG (WATE) – Many people in Chalet Village have been trying to rebuild after the November wildfires in Gatlinburg, but the high winds during Thursday night’s storm made it more difficult to move on. One group of construction workers nearly lost their lives when debris flew around the property of one home on top of the mountain.

“The house is going!” yelled Chris Cate in cell phone video he caught of the storm.

Powerful winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour made a mess within seconds. Sheets of plywood and nails were scattered across a new home being built off of Wiley Oakley Drive.

“We ran and hid because the wind was blowing the sand, the rock and everything at us,” said Lester Barrett, a foreman. “You could see the whole walls bowling out.”

Workers with American Home Building dodged debris flying at them from every direction, running for safety.

Barrett adds, “It was real dangerous. It was out a scene of a movie like Twister.”

Surprisingly, no one was hurt. Some were even inside working when the wind took the structure down.

“I still see the wood coming at me,” said Barrett.

The home they were rebuilding at the top of Chalet Village sustained severe damage to the roof and walls. A pile of rubble is what’s left after the storm.

Gatlinburg resident Michael Luciano captured drone footage a week ago from the same location. In that footage, the progress crews had made could be seen after the November wildfires burned down the original home.

“It was hard to believe the wildfires and now all of this happened to us,” said Barrett.

Their hard work from the past few months was gone within seconds, but that isn’t stopping them from picking up the pieces and starting over again. A day after nearly losing their lives, the team was back at it. They are repairing an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 worth of damage.

Contractors on site say the wind event set them back two to three weeks behind schedule.

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