Portions of Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed throughout the weekend, following Thursday night’s powerful thunderstorms that killed two people and injured at least six.
National Park Service personnel spent much of Friday trying to locate hikers and backpackers who might have been caught in remote parts of the huge park when the storms hit.
Melissa Cobern, a Park Service spokesperson, said Friday afternoon that there are no reports of injured hikers or backpackers.
The worst damage was in the northwest part of the park, on the Tennessee side of the state line, northwest of Clingman’s Dome.
Ralph Frazier, 50, of Buford, Ga., died when a large limb fell on the motorcycle he was driving on Little River Road, about a half-mile east of the Townsend Wye. A passenger was not hurt.
At a swimming hole near Abrams Creek Campground, off Cooper Road Trail, a large tree fell on four people, killing Rachael Burkhart, 41, of Corrytown, Tenn.
A 7-year-old girl swimming in the creek was hit by the same tree and knocked unconscious. Bystanders pulled the girl from the water and gave her CPR. Her father, also hit by the tree, suffered broken ribs, fractured vertebrae, and a collapsed lung. He and his daughter were airlifted to a Knoxville hospital. The girl’s mother also was hurt, but her injuries were not as serious, park personnel said.
There was no word on the condition of those injured people Friday.
Two other people were struck by falling limbs or trees, and another person suffered a cardiac arrest. Those three people were hospitalized in Blount County, Tenn.
Cobern said hundreds of trees were felled by the storm, which struck about 6 p.m. and carried winds estimated by the National Weather Service at 70 mph. She said damage extends from Metcalf Bottoms, to Cades Cove, to Abrams Creek. National Park Service personnel rescued several people Thursday night who were trapped in vehicles by fallen trees and limbs.
The Cades Cove Campground will be closed until at least Sunday night, officials said. Also closed is Lookrock Campground.
In addition, the following roads are closed: Little River Road, from Elkmont to the Townsend Wye; Foothills Parkway West; Laurel Creek Road; Cades Cove Loop Road; Rich Mountain Road; Parson’s Branch Road; Weir Gap Road; and Tremont Road.
Crews were working Friday afternoon to assess damage to buildings in the storm-struck area.