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Wind Storm Costs Great Smoky $500,000


    Earlier this month nature's wrath was felt at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where a violent wind storm knocked down trees across much of the western half of the park.
    Now park officials are passing the cleanup bill to Washington HQ, and it's a whopper, one expected to approach half-a-million dollars! The total stems from damage sustained by Park Service vehicles and structures in the park as well as overtime pay for crews needed to clear away downed trees.
    Winds topped out at 106 mph during the event back on October 16th and 17th. Park officials say the most significant structural damage was to the historic Dan Lawson Barn in Cades Cove. It was blown partially off its footings, and one wall was buckled in.
    Rangers estimate more than 1,000 trees were felled by the strong winds, causing the closure of 24 trails to horse travel. Where those trees were knocked over there are "hot-tub sized holes" where they were uprooted.
    “Now that we have some idea what our impacts are we have crews starting work today to get trails reopened, beginning with the most popular trails first," says Assistant Park Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. "In the interest of getting the most miles of trail open as soon as possible, our crews will focus on cutting a path through blocked areas and removing any damaged trees and large limbs which are still hanging overhead and could pose a hazard.
   “We only have about a six-week window of weather to do trail work, so we will have to put off repairing of the large holes and other major damage to the trail surface until next spring. So there will be a number of trails that will remain closed to horse use throughout the winter.
   "But we plan to expand our trail workforce for next spring to get the remaining damage repaired as early as the weather allows.”
    Park officials estimate that the additional manpower needed to clean up after the storm will cost about $200,000.
    If you're still planning to visit the park this year and want to check on trail conditions, check out this website.

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