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Oneida
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Oneida

Parks dig out after damaging storms

Recovery is underway in both the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area and Pickett State Park after severe thunderstorms left significant damage in their wake on Sunday, May 26.

Pickett State Park is closed until further notice — including the day-use area, campground and rental cabins — while crews clean up there. There has been no timeline given for the park’s reopening. S.R. 154 through the park is open, but sightseers are asked to avoid the area.

One woman who was at the park for a family reunion when the storms struck Sunday said it was a terrifying experience.

“Trees falling in front and behind of us,” Ashley Bilbrey said on Facebook. “The wind, rain and lightning was terrible. We were trapped. Being in the car with our kids screaming and feeling helpless is the worst feeling.”

Nearby, the Big South Fork NRRA is open in most areas, but the hardest-hit areas are closed while similar clean-up efforts are underway.

The hardest-hit part of the Big South Fork was Divide Road, which is adjacent to Pickett State Forest. The road is closed at the Middle Creek Trailhead, and everyone is advised to steer clear of the area while crews complete their work.

Several people were trapped at Charit Creek Lodge and Twin Arches when the storms struck. National Park Service crews spent the remainder of Sunday and much of Monday cutting their way into those areas to rescue those park visitors. Miles away, a team of volunteers that included Big South Fork Mountain Bike Club President Joe Cross were trapped by fallen trees while doing trail maintenance on the Grand Gap Loop Trail. They were also rescued by NPS crews.

All facilities and trails accessible via Divide Road — including Charit Creek Lodge, Twin Arches, and Hatfield Ridge, Rock Creek, Terry Cemetery and trailheads like Gobbler’s Knob and Sawmill — are currently closed. In a press release Tuesday afternoon, the NPS urged visitors not to enter closed areas due to hazardous conditions that might still exist, and said those areas will be reopened when it is deemed safe.

Though the impacted areas don’t seem likely to remain closed more than a few days, one NPS worker said it will likely take months before all trail maintenance and clean-up made necessary by the thunderstorms is complete.

GC Staff
GC Staff
Go Cumberlands is the premiere source of information for visitors to Tennessee's Cumberland Mountains and Cumberland Plateau region.

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