TEMA update on Sevier County wildfires
by Kim Swindell Wood | November 29, 2016 11:58 am
November 29, 2016 11-29-16, 8 a.m., Central
This update corrects information indicating Ober Gatlinburg was destroyed in the wildfire last night. Ober Gatlinburg posted video this morning on its Facebook page, indicating all is OK at the facility: https://www.facebook.com/obergatlinburg/
- Media Note: The Level III – State of Emergency has been in place since Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, due to the ongoing drought conditions and wildfire threats in Tennessee.
- Thousands of residents and visitors evacuated overnight in Sevier County. Hundreds of structures damaged and destroyed by the wildfires, according to local emergency management officials.
- Hundreds of firefighters, and local and state personnel, directly responding to the wildfire situation or coordinating to help those who are.
- Sevier County residents can indicate their status with the American Red Cross at the organizations Safe and Well website: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php
- Residents can also use Facebook’s Safety Check to indicate their status: https://www.facebook.com/about/safetycheck/
State agencies and local officials evacuated likely thousands residents and visitors from Sevier County last night due to devastating wildfires in-and-around the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It is very likely 14,000+ residents and visitors evacuated from Gatlinburg alone.
The Chimney Top Fire, which began in the Great Smoky Mountains, spread very rapidly yesterday evening as high winds pushed flames onto private property.
Even with the rain that is currently falling there, the fires continue to burn and structures remain engulfed with little hope that the rainfall will bring immediate relief.
A temporary flight restriction is in place to prevent aircraft from complicating the response.
Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines. State Hwy. 441 heading into Gatlinburg is closed, except for emergency traffic. State Hwy. 441 leaving Gatlinburg is open to evacuating traffic.
Additionally, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has liaison officers in Sevier County and has activated the East Tennessee Regional Coordination Center to facilitate resource requests and mission assignments.
Green and Sevier County schools are closed today. Cocke County schools are running two hours late.
FATALITIES & INJURIES
Three persons with severe burns were transferred form University of Tennessee’s Knoxville (UTK) hospital to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville overnight. A fourth with burns to their face continues to be evaluated at UTK. Currently, there are no reports of fatalities.
Sevier County reports 11,595 people without power.
At a peak, an estimated 1,300 people occupied six Red Cross or independently-operated shelters. The latest estimate is 1,100 people in four shelters.
TEMA opened the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Nashville last night coordinating with Emergency Services Coordinators and representatives with the Tennessee departments of Commerce and Insurance (State Fire Marshal), General Services, Health, Human Services and Transportation, and American Red Cross, Army National Guard, Fire Mutual Aid, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.
This morning, representatives from the Tennessee departments of Economic and Community Development, Labor and Workforce Development, Financial Institutions, Department of Education, Finance and Administration, Agriculture, and the Tennessee Valley Authority will join those organizations already collaborating to ensure coordinated response and effective recovery.
Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers (up to 52 at peak) have conducted door-to-door canvassing to assist with notifications and evacuations.
Tennessee Department of Transportation (32 personnel) crews and trucks have been working continuously overnight to help clear routes of ingress and egress, fire fighters and apparatus from scores of jurisdictions responded with mutual aid.
The Tennessee National Guard is activating 100 soldiers to assist with movement of first responders, light debris removal and wellness checks.
The Tennessee Department of Health is coordinating hospitals and medical services with local partners.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency this evening to secure a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) for the Chimney Top Mountain fire, which caused the wildfire outbreak in Sevier County.
Showers and thunderstorms after 1 p.m., Eastern, today with winds 5 to 15 mph, and gusts to 20 mph. High near 69. Precipitation chance 80 percent.
Tonight, a chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 10 p.m., Eastern. Mostly cloudy with a low around 59. Breezy, with a south wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent.
TEMA is asking residents in Sevier County to stay off mobile devices unless it is for emergency calls to prevent taxing the mobile system.