F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

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Will Blozan
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F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by Will Blozan » Sat May 07, 2011 8:25 pm

ENTS,

Last weekend I was part of the annual Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage. I did two trips, this one not with the event, and one I'll post on later.

In need of a break I went solo to the western Smokies to check on some trees I had not seen in 13 years. I'll post on the ones I relocated in yet another post but for now I will relate some photos of the incredible tornado damage sustained the previous Wednesday, April 27th.
First sign of trouble
First sign of trouble
Straight-line wind damage perhaps001.jpg (343.19 KiB) Viewed 2360 times
I arrived at the ranger station which had signs up indicating the Abrams Creek Trail was closed due to storm damage. No problem, I decided to do a loop hike up Cooper Road to Hatcher Mountain and back down along Little Bottoms Trail. None were posted as being closed so I headed out (clockwise) to explore new territory and some potential tall white pine sites on Hatcher Mountain.
Typical damage
Typical damage
Hatcher Mountain damage001.jpg (307.84 KiB) Viewed 2360 times
Boy, was I in for a surprise! About 1/2 mile in on the Hatcher Mountain Trail I began to see numerous downed trees. Since I was already six miles in to my 11 mile loop I was not inclined to return the way I came. I figured it couldn't be TOO bad... so I crawled along and hoped for the best. My optimisim was soon squashed as the trail was no longer navigable and the entire FOREST was laying on the ground. I had my GPS so I had an idea of where to go and I did catch glimpses of the trail or previously cut logs.
Old growth Shortleaf pine
Old growth Shortleaf pine
Sad day for the pines
Sad day for the pines
Flattened old-growth pine forest 2001.jpg (298.84 KiB) Viewed 2360 times
One tree made it!
One tree made it!
"Right-of-way" quality swath of carnage on adjacent ridge
"Right-of-way" quality swath of carnage on adjacent ridge
Clearly define swath on Hatcher Mountain001.jpg (294.38 KiB) Viewed 2360 times
It soon became clear after ~one mile that I was paralleling a tornado swath and NOT passing across it. I was super tired, hot, and a bit alarmed at the many miles to go to get back. Trees were down in every direction and no path seemed better than another. I decided to stay on the trail when I could but lost it completely once I reached the junction with Little Bottoms Trail. At this point the trail was obliterated from fallen trees and massive rootballs torn out of the ground. Trees were still creaking and cracking and the smell of death was in the air. Trees were not the only victims in the carnage zone.
Where is the trail?
Where is the trail?
Abrams Creek Trail001.jpg (287.06 KiB) Viewed 2360 times
Near where I lost the trail
Near where I lost the trail
Abrams Creek Trail 2001.jpg (280.65 KiB) Viewed 2360 times
Fortunately I found the campsite on Abrams Creek which was just about 200 feet from the edge of the swath. From there back I welcomed the open trail. I did not measure anything noteworthy since all the large/tall trees were down. Bummer.

Will

This is the first trip with my new camera (Panasonic FX700) and unfortunately the subject was a bit gruesome. I did take some full HD video of the carnage which is pretty impressive.
Attachments
Tornado swath over dead hemlocks, across Abrams Creek and onto Hatcher Mtn
Tornado swath over dead hemlocks, across Abrams Creek and onto Hatcher Mtn
Path over Abrams Creek to Hatcher Mountain001.jpg (283.38 KiB) Viewed 2360 times

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edfrank
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by edfrank » Sat May 07, 2011 9:04 pm

Will,

Some pretty impressive shots of the downed trees. Clear Creek State Park here has a "Windthrow Preserve" where they have a trail through a tornado ravaged area so people can see how the recovery process works. Nothing was cleared out except to cut through to make the trail. Something like that would be interesting to see in the Smokies.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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James Parton
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by James Parton » Sat May 07, 2011 9:47 pm

Will,

I agree with Ed. It would make a good " recovery " project.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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Marcboston
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by Marcboston » Sun May 08, 2011 9:41 am

Hey Will how high up were you in those shots?

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Will Blozan
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by Will Blozan » Sun May 08, 2011 10:01 am

Marc,

I was at ground level or on a fallen tree.

Will

TN_Tree_Man
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by TN_Tree_Man » Mon May 09, 2011 9:27 pm

Trees were still creaking and cracking and the smell of death was in the air. Trees were not the only victims in the carnage zone.
Will,

I have to ask, what were some other victims in this carnage zone that you speak of?

p.s. Although work was a bit hectic, my house was in the line of fire for this series of storms that came through the Tenn. Valley and sustained minimal damage.

Steve Springer
"One can always identify a dogwood tree by it's bark."

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Rand
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by Rand » Tue May 10, 2011 8:55 am

Found a google earth file that shows the storm track:
tornado.jpg
They rate the tornado EF-4 and the track is over 17 miles long!

http://crisislanding.appspot.com/?crisi ... oes_4_2011

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Will Blozan
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Re: F3 tornado damage in western Smokies

Post by Will Blozan » Tue May 10, 2011 4:20 pm

Rand,

Man, that is so cool! The NPS was going to fly the path and map the carnage. Thanks for posting that- great addition to the post. I DO wish I knew about it before, though...

Steve,

As for the other victims all I know is they did not smell very good. Roadkill scent. No hikers that I could see...

Will

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