GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — An area of the Smokies already saturated by rain and flash flooding received several more inches of rain overnight causing landslides and damaging roads. As a result, the Greenbrier area is fully closed, according to Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials. The area had been under a partial, weekday-only closure.
“Roads were further damaged by floodwaters that rose above riverbanks and also from overland waterflow from above the roadways,” said a spokesperson for the park on Thursday.
Storms that moved through East Tennessee late July 21 and into the morning of July 22 dumped several inches of rain across the region. As much as 6 inches fell on the Clinton and Powell areas.
Park officials estimate the Greenbrier area of the Smokies received 3 inches of rain — on top of the 8+ inches of rain the area received just 8 days ago, on July 13. That rainfall led to flash flooding which forced the evacuation and rescue of hundreds of people staying at the campground. One family’s decision saved their lives.
Overland waterflow in the Greenbrier area caused a landslide above and below a steep road section between the Greenbrier Ranger Station and the Greenbrier picnic area, the park said. Previous flooding washed away months of work along Ramsey Cascades Trail that began earlier this year. The project is funded by the Trails Forever program supported by the Friends of the Smokies.
Water is now flowing below the road surface which has undermined the stability of the road, the park said. The road is unstable and unsafe for motorists, pedestrians or cyclists to cross.
“Engineers will be assessing road stability over the next several days and making recommendations for repair options,’ the spokesperson said.
In addition, visitors to all areas of the park are cautioned to avoid hikes that involve unbridged river crossings until the high waters subside, the park service said in a press release.
Temporary closures continue. Those include Ramsey Prong Road, Porters Creek Road, Ramsey Cascades Trail, Porters Creek Trail, Greenbrier Picnic Area, Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion, and Backcountry Campsites 31, 32, and 33. Old Settlers, Brushy Mountain, and Grapeyard Ridge. Trails remain open, but hikers must access them from parking lots near the Greenbrier entrance or from other areas on the park.