Areas Now Open in Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Gatlinburg Parkway and River Road May Open by Wednesday, December 7, 2016
December 1, 2016 VISITOR ALERT – Some areas are now open, like Cades Cove Loop Road, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Downtown Gatlinburg Parkway and River Road hope to be open back to the public by Wednesday, December 7, 2016. This visitor alert report comes from this morning’s press conference in Gatlinburg along with local reports and information from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC has re-opened; however, Sugarlands Visitor Center and Clingmans Dome remain closed due to wildfires and smoke. Highway 441, Little River Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, and Parsons Branch also remain closed.
For the latest information on what trails and areas are closed in the national park, visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the latest from the National Park Service. The threat of fire in the area is still extremely high despite recent rainfalls, all visitors and residents alike are asked to please exercise caution.
In Gatlinburg, from the post office, located on Highway 321 East, to city limits on the east side of town is now open to the public. Even though city officials hope to have both the Gatlinburg Parkway (Highway 441) and River Road open to the public by Wednesday, December 7, the side streets will remain closed until deemed safe.
Many roads within Sevier County should be open by the weekend according to County Mayor, Larry Waters. Areas in the county that will not open are Wiley Oakley/North Chalet Village, Westgate Resort area, and Beech Branch/Walker Trail area.
Wildfire Search and Recovery Efforts Ongoing in Gatlinburg and Sevier County
Reports today increased the wildfire coverage to over 17,000 acres with the damage half in the National Park and half in Sevier County.
Officials stated that three people were rescued yesterday. Two people were rescued from an elevator in Westgate Resort and another rescued at a home on Ski Mountain. About 70% of the affected area still needs to be checked by rescue teams. The number of wildfire victims remains at seven with the number of injured people treated at LeConte Medical Center up to 53. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) still cannot release the identities of victims. Approximately 240 people remained in the two area shelters overnight.
A Facebook Page, Chimney Tops 2 Fire has been set-up to act as a general clearinghouse for both residents and visitors seeking information on property. Officials are currently setting up a GIS mapping system so that home owners can check on their properties; there will be a link on the Facebook page to the map. The map will be updated on a regular basis.
The Sevier County Humane Society is working with animal control officers and others to check homes for pet owners whose pets are missing. If you have a missing pet, please visit the Humane Society’s Facebook Page and give a detailed description with your street address.
How You Can Donate To Smoky Mountains Wildfire Relief Efforts
The amount of in-kind donations has been so overwhelming that officials have asked for a halt on all in-kind donations at this time. For those wishing to make donations, a donation clearinghouse of sorts has been set up at Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg to help direct your donation to the appropriate agency; you may call them at 865-430-7384 or 866-586-4483.
The Dolly Parton Foundation has also stepped up to serve the community by organizing the My People Fund where each family in Sevier County who’s lost their home will receive $1,000 each month for six months to get back on their feet. Dolly Parton is asking her fans world-wide to donate and make this big dream come true for her beloved people in the Smoky Mountains.
Another press conference will be held at 4:00 p.m. today. We’ll keep you posted on the latest news at HeySmokies.com.