Rain not much of an issue this week, but a year ago it was deadly, destructive

Jul. 06, 2013 @ 10:35 AM

Thursday’s rain curtailed some Fourth of July festivities and dampened others, but didn’t cause any major incidents of flooding or reported damages in Sevier County.

While it wasn’t what visitors here for the holiday hoped for, it was better weather than what the county saw a year earlier.

In Pigeon Forge, the Patriot Festival headliners still got to play, although a heavy rain that moved through early in the evening chased some of the audience away.

The showers had mostly stopped by around 7 p.m., Assistant City Manager Eric Brackins said, and they were able to have the show.

“We still had the performances and fireworks,” he sad. “The crowd wasn’t as large as it normally is, but we still had the festivities.

“People had planned their vacations around it, so we wanted to go ahead if we could.”

Gatlinburg officials canceled their River Raft Regatta on Thursday because the Pigeon River was running too high and too swiftly to have people in the water to retrieve the rafts, but they were able to hold the midnight parade to kick off the holiday.

In Sevierville, the Tennessee Smokies were able to complete their game and subsequent fireworks show.

While the weather July 4, 2013, wasn’t memorable, Friday marked the one-year anniversary of a deadly set of storms.

Much of the 2012 damage came from heavy winds that tore through the area and were believed the cause of two deaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Ralph Frazier, 50, of Buford, Ga., died after a limb struck him while he was riding his motorcycle in the park, and Racheal Burkhart, 41, of Corryton was killed when a limb fell on her at Abrams Creek Campground.

The winds also devastated Mountain Cove Marina on Douglas Lake, wrecking the facility and damaging or destroying dozens of boats. Luckily, no one was injured when the winds tore through the marina.

It has since been largely rebuilt and refurbished. The owners of the marina did not respond Friday to a request for an interview for this story.

In downtown Sevierville, the winds in last year’s storm tore a roof off of Carl Ownby & Co. Hardware and threw it into the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center. The center was evacuated briefly, but was reopened after officials found it didn’t suffer significant damage.

Charles Ownby said the roof torn off his store was the primary covering, but they had left the old roof in place so they weren’t completely vulnerable to the elements after the storm.

“We had quite a few leaks, but we remembered where to put all the buckets,” he said.

He was still appreciative of the firefighters, police and utility workers who responded to the scene. But mostly he was grateful that no one was hurt.

His store faces Main Street, and the storm hit the area shortly after closing. On an typical day, the road likely would have been full of cars. But only a handful of drivers were there at the time, and no one was hurt.

“It’s just a miracle, I’m eternally thankful no one was hurt,” he said.

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com