Sevier Co., Gatlinburg officials battling fire, wind

(PHOTO: T. Burk / WBIR)

High winds are toppling trees and power lines across the region, with Sevier County one of the hardest hit areas. There have been winds up to 70 miles per hour reported in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

All visitor centers in the park and most park roads have been closed, according to the park service. Downed trees are creating traffic issues on the spur between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The 11-mile stretch of Highway 129 in Blount County known as the Dragon is also closed because of downed trees, our sister affiliate WBIR reported.

More than 11,000 customers of the Sevier County Electric System were without power shortly after noon on Thursday. Customers in Gatlinburg, Pittman Center, Ski Mountain, and Cobbly Nob are affected.

Fire crews from around the area are also being called in to help battle a 30-acre brush fire in the Gatlinburg/Pittman area. The Seymour Volunteer Fire Department confirmed the Wildland Task Force has been activated to assist.

Authorities said the fire is located at East Parkway and Branam Hollow Road.

Sevier County Electric Superintendent Allen Robbins said that downed trees took down two substations---one in south Gatlinburg and one in the Glades. The first, located in the center of Gatlinburg, had been restored and crews were still working on the second one.

The high winds are creating problems for crews who are working to restore power, because as they get one tree cleared, another one falls.

Sevier County officials said one person was treated at LeConte Medical Center for injuries after a tree fell on a house.

A Red Cross shelter has been opened at the Pigeon Forge Community Center for anyone affected by the power outages. It is located at 170 Community Center Drive.

Gatlinburg-Pittman High School, Pi Beta Phi and Pittman Center Elementary schools are experiencing power outages, though all students are safe. Parents can pick them up if they