Rain leaves its mark on county

National park, cabins among areas affected by slides
Jan. 17, 2013 @ 12:45 PM

Heavy rainfall over the past few days caused concerns that an ill man in Richardson's Cove might not be able to make it to the hospital, as well as cabin evacuations on a private Gatlinburg drive, and a landslide in the national park.

Derek Eisentrout, meteorologist at the National Weather Service Center in Morristown, said areas in Sevier County received from 5-8 inches of rain over the last three days.

The precipitation came from a cold front that brought rain on Monday. The front stalled out, but it kept raining, Eisentrout said.

"It was fairly strong and it tapped into a lot of Gulf moisture that allowed it to rain over our area for the last three days, which has led to widespread flooding across the area," Eisentrout said.

The heavy rains partially destroyed a section of driveway that was one family's only option to get in and out. That need turned urgent Wednesday morning, as Ed Allen — who suffered a stroke two and a half years ago as well as head trauma from a fall last month — had trouble breathing. His family thought he would need hospital treatment.

"We couldn't keep from worrying because we can't even get our vehicles out," said his wife, Kay.

The only other option was to carry Ed Allen across a tentatively placed I-beam over the fast-moving creek. Friends and neighbors were trying to repair the road however they could, but luckily Allen stabilized before the situation turned worse.

"He's OK right now," his wife said. "They're just trying to get the road fixed so if I do need to take him I can."

Rainfall caused another road to partially collapse in Gatlinburg. Eleven cabins above Forest Springs Road were in danger when Stone Fence Lane partially collapsed on Tuesday.

The Gatlinburg Fire Department evacuated three families from the cabins, but no injuries were reported.

Farther up the mountain, the National Park reported 8.56 inches of rain at Cherokee and 7.4 inches at Newfound Gap as of midnight Tuesday. The heavy rains swelled rivers and streams, and contributed to a landslide that undercut Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) at mile marker 22 between Collins Creek and Web Overlook — on the North Carolina side — around 9:40 a.m. Wednesday.

Newfound Gap Road, the main artery across the mountains, is expected to be closed for "an extended period of time," according to a park press release.

"The slide is estimated to be a 200-foot section of road extending 1,000 feet down slope, but the full extent of the damage is not yet known," the press release said.

Park staff and the Department of Federal Highway's Construction and Geotechnical Services are evaluating the slide damage and planning repairs.

"The park is evaluating the remainder of the roadway, but anticipates Newfound Gap Road will be opened to visitors from the Gatlinburg entrance in Tennessee to Newfound Gap parking lot as soon as it is possible. The road will be open to Smokemont on the North Carolina side," the statement said.

The park also reports multiple temporary road closures throughout the park due to high water.

For updated road closure information, call 436-1200, ext. 631, or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

rhargett@themountainpress.com