Tennessee Dealing with Major Fires and Severe Weather
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Many buildings in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, have been burned to their foundation following this week's fast-moving wildfires. But Mayor Mike Werner, who also lost his home, says his town will pull together and recover.
Hurricane-force winds Monday night fanned flames and sent residents and tourists fleeing, some on foot. Officials say the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, with more than 100 buildings, is likely entirely gone. Three people were killed. The flames reached the doorstep of Dollywood, the Tennessee theme park named after country music legend and local hero Dolly Parton. But the attraction was spared any significant damage.
The fires spread quickly on Monday night, when winds topping 87 mph whipped up the flames, catching residents and tourists in the Gatlinburg area by surprise. Police banged on front doors and told people to get out immediately. Some trekked 20 minutes to catch lifesaving rides on trolleys usually reserved for tours and wedding parties.
In all, more than 14,000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuate the tourist city in the mountains, where some hotspots persisted and a curfew was planned for Tuesday night.
Tennessee is also dealing with deadly weather. Possible tornadoes swept through parts of Alabama and Tennessee overnight, killing five people and injuring more than a dozen as heavy rains from storms moving across the South produced flooding in areas previously suffering from months of drought.