In July, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw the most rainfall for any month since the records were started by the National Weather Service in 1988. According to the park, the Mount LeConte weather station measured 18.16 inches of rainfall.
The previous wettest month for the mountain was 17.8 inches in 2004. Of the 31 days in July, Mt LeConte saw rain on 29 days, and it followed the driest June on record. In June, there were only 3.27 inches of rain.
The rain impacted several areas of the mountains, including roads and trails, especially in the Greenbrier area. The Ramsey Cascades trail was in the process of being rehabilitated and suffered severe washing out. Over 200 linear feet of the trail were washed away, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Ranger Dana Soehn said.
“We already had a lot of work to do on Ramsey Cascades trail, one of the most popular trails in the park. Now we have even more,” Soehn said.
The Porters Creek trail, Greenbrier picnic area and the Greenbrier picnic pavilion were also affected. The trail received some damage, but the bigger issue is that the roads to access the areas were damaged and are in the process of being repaired.
The entrance road into the Greenbrier area of the park is still closed. The road, just beyond the ranger station, is still heavily damaged by several hundred yards, according to Soehn.
“We had a lot of overland drainage issues and then the water then flowed below the surface and created a slide both below and above the road, making the road surface vulnerable to completely sloughing off the roadway,” Soehn said. “We are having some engineers who are developing a solution to be able to stabilize the road, but it’s going to take some time before we are able to get those repairs made.”
Visitors to the park should be cautious of the forecast and be wary of changing weather conditions across the park, according to Soehn.
While the weather is clear in the valley, there may be a thundercloud up the mountain.
Rain from the top of the mountains can quickly flow down, causing flash flooding conditions in areas that visitors may have thought were safe before. Additionally, Soehn advised that hikers avoid trails with many stream crossings when rain is possible in the park.
Hikers might cross for streams that were safe in the morning, but with rain, the streams may rise and be unpassable when visitors trek back in the afternoon.