Roads reopening in Smokies, crews still working on clearing fallen trees

GATLINBURG (WATE) – Crews have been working tirelessly to clear the many roads closed inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hundreds of trees have fallen after 98 mile per hour winds blew through causing damage and leaving behind a trail of debris, but a few roads remain closed. As of Sunday night a spokesperson with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cherokee Orchard Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Little River Road, Wear Cove Gap and Greenbrier Entrance Road remain closed.

The Gatlinburg Bypass and Cades Cove Loop Road reopened Friday evening. Cherokee Orchard Road is open from the park boundary to Twin Creeks. Little River Road from the Sugarland Visitor Center to Elkmont Road is open as well.

Park rangers say if you have questions, you can follow Smokies Roads NPS on Twitter to get alerts on updated road conditions.

Rangers began evacuating the campgrounds, closing roads, and rerouting hikers Thursday as a safety precaution. Early Friday morning nearly every Tennessee road in the park was still closed.

“It’s all hands on deck trying to get these roads reopened,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn.

Previous story: Strong wind leaves behind damage in Sevier County, East Tennessee

The storm kicked campers, like the Penlands, out of their spot.

“Yesterday morning a lot of limbs falling from the trees and you could hear them cracking and falling,” said Randy Penland.

Park rangers say they’re working on clearing roads based on priority, working to get Newfound Gap Road open along with the access roads to campgrounds.

“When the winds came up, I think all of us immediately went back in our minds to November 28. But knowing that we’re at full green-up and that we’ve had so much rain, that allowed us a sense of comfort. But we all were on high alert as we are always,” added Soehn.

She feels people truly listened on Thursday while they warned about damaging winds.

“So we didn’t have to respond to any hikers or backpackers in need. We were able to push out messages earlier in the week to let people know if they had backcountry reservations that we were expecting this wind event to come through. So many people cancelled their reservations just proactively,” said Soehn.

By Friday afternoon, Penland, along with some other campers, were able to go back to their campsite, relieved that everyone is okay.

“If you camp, and you’ve camped any length of time, you know you have no control over nature. And you either bend and adapt and overcome, or you stay at home,” said Penland.

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