Sunday night and Monday morning (July 9-10) I visited Gatlinburg, TN. A huge wildfire took place on the mountains slopes surrounding the town in late November, 2016 (as detailed in an earlier post here May 24).
The town is encased on the western side of Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and you drive 5 miles of parkway from Pigeon Forge to get there.
The town seemed quite lively at night, with its theme park atmosphere. 10 miles to the S, Pigeon Forge has the appearance of a small Las Vegas, with a Titanic exhibit, upside down office building, and Hollywood replica. That town was somewhat affected.
During the day Monday I took the chairlift ride and could see much more of the damage on the mountain slopes, including mountain homes that burned. But it is true that the community is unusual in its direct exposure to possible wildfire, so building there entails some risk.
I do think that climate change has made the ferocity of the fire more likely.
I didn’t get to the “Road to Nowhere” W of Asheville (on the east side of the mountains) but I encountered two short curved tunnels, each about 1/3 mile long (without elevation drainage like PA Turnpike has) on I-40 going Eastbound to Asheville. This is a road to “somewhere” indeed. The curve is to the left driving East. There is a campground “Harmon’s Den” Indeed, Richard Harmon is the greatest of all time.
I need to get down to this area to see it for myself, but it does look like Gatlinburg TN and Pigeon Forge TN have made robust recoveries from the November 2017 fires. Gatlinburg reopened on Dec. 9, 2016. A lot of volunteerism was involved, even though this was “other people’s fault” (CNN story ).
Here are a few videos:
5 (Pigeon Forge)
I drove through Gatlinburg (down 441 on from the pass through the Smokies, 5000+ feet elevation) in the evening of July 16, 2013 on the way to Oak Ridge, to take the energy facility tour. The town was very crowded and I didn’t stop for pictures.
Update: June 30, 2017
Prosecutors have decided they do not have enough evidence against the teens in the CNN story to successfully prosecute them for causing the wildfire and have dropped charges. Wind conditions, drought, and slow response were major contributing factors.
(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT)
Update: July 6, 2007
Here is some new dashcam video from the fire.
Source: WATE in Gatlinburg (http://wate.com/2017/07/06/gatlinburg-business-owner-retraces-steps-night-of-wildfires/).
On Monday, May 16, 2016 I visited the burned are in Shenandoah National Park, 12 miles south of the US 33- south entrance (between Remington and Harrisonburg, VA), near the Brown Mountain Overlook at Milepost 77, looking West.
It’s important to note that this not the same as “Brown Mountain NC”, site of the famous lights (which actually occur at several places in Virginia and North Carolina — high school chemistry explanations — covered here Nov. 4, 2015). The fire has also been called the “Rocky Mount Fire”, no connection to the Rocky Mountains in western US and Canada.
Vegetation was already starting to grow back. But the visual effect was striking.
I saw very little fire damage on the south side of Skyline Drive.
Wildfires may occur in the East. The Virginia fires don’t seem to have jeopardized homes.
Here’s a video on “What Caused the Fort McMurray Fire?” in northern Alberta?
And I can’t resist sharing this slide show of Expeditions by (22-year old nuclear physicist) Taylor Wilson, maybe the raw material for a documentary film. in Nevada, New Mexico and northwestern Arkansas. The “SCI” in the website name seems to refer to a level of security clearance.
The next-to-last story in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book is called “Expedition“.