TEMA Thursday update on wildfires, tornadoes

Here is the Thursday morning update from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency on Sevier County wildfires and the tornado outbreak in Southeast Tennessee.

Sevier County Wildfire

Tennessee Tornado Outbreak

December 1, 2016 – 10 a.m., Central

Activation:  LEVEL 3 – STATE OF EMERGENCY

HIGHLIGHTS

TEMA and TN VOAD set up call center, 866-586-4483, for information on donations and volunteering.

Weather-related fatalities remain at two (2) confirmed in Polk County.

Wildfire fatalities in Sevier County remain at seven (7) confirmed.

Five (5) confirmed tornados in Tennessee from the severe weather overnight on Nov. 29.

Damage assessments and debris clearance continues for severe-weather impacted counties.

Tennessee continues to experience other wildfire threats and drought conditions, even with the recent heavy rains.

TORNADO OUTBREAK

CURRENT SITUATION: Damage assessments and debris clearance will continue today in some of the harder hit counties from the severe storms and tornados overnight on Nov. 29.  As crews work to restore electricity to customers from the storms, power outages stand at 6,861 as of this morning across multiple counties.

There are no firm numbers on exact damage overall at this time.  A county-by-county update follows:

Bradley County:  Local officials report damage in some areas, still under assessment.  No reports of weather-related injuries.  Bradley County EMA is also assisting in Polk County.

Coffee County:  The NWS says Coffee County had two (2), EF1 tornados the night of Nov. 29. One, EF1 was located southeast of Manchester with winds of 105 mph.  Another EF1 was west of Tullahoma, also with 105 mph maximum winds.

Marion County:  Local officials report five homes damaged, with one destroyed, in the Alvin York Highway area.  Two people also received minor injuries. The NWS confirms one (1) EF2 tornado impacted Marion County (and moved into Sequatchie County) with peak winds at 125 mph.

Meigs County:  An area near Georgetown sustained damage and officials are still surveying impact.

McMinn County:  The Deerfield Estates Community in Athens was hit by one (1) EF2 tornado with maximum winds of 135 mph.  Damage assessments continue in the county today.

Polk County:  There are 2 confirmed, storm-related fatalities in Polk County, where one (1) EF3 tornado, damaged 20 homes and destroyed the Ocoee community’s U.S. Post Office. All major routes into Polk County are currently open.  The National Weather Service (NWS) says the Polk County EF3 tornado had a peak wind speed of 14 mph.

Sequatchie County:  The Cartwright/New Hope area sustained damage, which is still under assessment.

TEMA has a District Coordinator in McMinn County command post to support the local emergency management agency.  The Tennessee Department of Military, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee State Parks, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are supporting the severe weather mission.

SEVIER COUNTY WILDFIRES

CURRENT SITUATION: Firefighters in Sevier County are still addressing remnants of smoldering wildfires and Gatlinburg remains blocked to the public, with a mandatory evacuation order still in place.  Local officials are not providing access to the city because it remains a dangerous situation. More than 400 firefighters and almost 100 fire apparatuses are supporting the firefighting effort in Sevier County.

The exact number of structures affected and exact acreage impacted by the Chimney top wildfire remain unknown.  Local officials are estimating 700 impacted structures and more than 17,000 acres burned. The total size of the wildfire impact, on acreage and on structures, in Sevier County is still being assessed.

In Sevier County, 8,476 people remain without power. A temporary flight restriction remains in place to prevent aircraft from complicating the response.

There are no air quality alerts in place for Sevier County today and local reports show clear skies. The Knoxville area may have air quality (Orange) that is unhealthy for those with lung conditions later today. Air quality information is available at:  https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_state&stateid=44

The Division of Forestry continues to address a number of other wildfires burning in Tennessee, in addition to the Chimney Top wildfire in Sevier County.  As of Nov. 30, there were 26 active wildfires in the state impacting 11,787 acres.

Other significant wildfires include:

East Miller Cove (Blount) 1,504 acres, 95% contained

Little Brushy (Morgan) 435 acres, 100% contained

Stoney Fork (Campbell) 1,650 acres, 100% contained

Beech Grove Rd (Anderson) 361 acres, 100% contained

Bald Knob Rd. (Morgan) 1,393 acres, 100% contained

Old Mountain Rd. (Grainger) 230, 100% contained

Flippers Bend (Hamilton) 981 acres, 100% contained

Poe Rd. (Hamilton) 712 acres, 100% contained

Mowbray (Hamilton) 899 acres, 98% contained

Even with recent rains in Tennessee, the state continues to experience drought conditions.  All of Tennessee’s 95 counties are experiencing Severe drought conditions or higher, with 18 counties in Exceptional drought status and 52 counties in Extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?TN.

FATALITIES & INJURIES

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) has confirmed 7 fatalities in Sevier County from the wildfires.  There is no further information available on these fatalities at this time. TDOH also reports up to 45 injuries from the Sevier County wildfires.

SHELTERS

There are two Red Cross shelters remain open in Sevier County with 219 total occupants:

Pigeon Forge Community Center (13)

Rocky Top Sports World (206)

DONATION & VOLUNTEER CALL CENTER

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (TN VOAD) have setup a call center for information about donating goods and volunteering to help survivors of the Sevier County wildfires.

The call center number is 866-586-4483 and is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day of the week.

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