December 5, 2016
They say hard times reveal character. Well, folks in east Tennessee have had an ample opportunity to reveal who they are recently with the fires from the drought, and tornadoes.
On November 28th, a fire started in the Chimney Tops of the Great Smoky Mountains, which is one of the most popular areas of the park. The fire started out around five hundred acres, but with hurricane force winds from the weather front coming in, and sparks from downed power lines, the fire quickly spread to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The devastation that followed is unbelievable.
To date, there have been 14 confirmed fatalities, at least 134 people with injuries and over 1,600 structures burned according to local Knox News reports.
Yet, even in the midst of such disaster, businesses such as Dollywood and Alamo Steakhouse have stepped up to support the community in ways that says volumes about who they are. Dolly Parton is paying a $1,000.00 a month to residents that have lost everything in the fire. The owner of Alamo Steakhouse is making sure their employees retain their salaries.
In true East Tennessee form, donations to help came pouring in. In fact, the Knox News Sentinel reported that officials were requesting no new supply drives for victims of the fire. They were overwhelmed by donations that were pouring in.
Although the rain a couple days later was a welcome sight in the front of fires, it also brought with it rare tornadoes that touched down in McMinn and Polk Counties, about an hour south west of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. An F2 tornado touched down in Athens, and in the Ocoee area of Polk County.
Even though their houses were destroyed, there were folks out helping each other take care of livestock.
I guess they don’t call us the Volunteer State for nothing. Folks here are living up to the name in a lot of ways. In a world full of sadness, it gives me hope to see the goodness in people when it counts.