Important Tips You Should Follow When It Floods in the Smoky Mountains

2024 flooding in gatlinburg tn

(photo by Corey Wagner/TheSmokies.com)

Local offers advice for heavy rainfall in the Smokies

It’s not uncommon to see heavy amounts of rainfall and flooding in the Sevier County area. And of course, since the Great Smoky Mountains area is a major travel hub, knowing how floods may affect your vacation can be handy. With that in mind, as a local, here’s what I think you need to know before you go:

Flooding can affect areas in the mountains near Gatlinburg, especially near rivers and streams. It’s important to understand that conditions can change quickly in the mountains. However, there are great sources you can follow to find out current road conditions to avoid getting into a dangerous situation.

1. Attractions may close in bad conditions

If the weather turns bad, attractions are subject to close for safety reasons. Finding the attraction’s social media account is a good way to check to see if they have an unexpected closing due to bad weather.

2. Follow current road information

The main roads should mostly be fine. But X (formerly Twitter) is a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest road happenings in Sevier County, the National Park and East Tennessee. Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesperson Mark Nagi (@MarkNagiTDOT) is a must-follow for the latest road conditions. Nagi is good about responding to specific questions, but before you bother him, check out the website smartway.tn.gov. It’s another must-follow for X is @SmokiesRoadsNPS, the official National Park Service feed for the Smokies. You can also check current road conditions on the National Park Service website.

3. Listen for sirens

In cases where flooding is getting bad, you will hear sirens that verbally warn of flash flooding in Gatlinburg. When things are getting serious, you’ll likely hear the sirens go off before running into a major problem. But, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on conditions before it gets to that point. If you hear the sirens, you’ll want to head to a higher elevation.

Little Pigeon River Rising to Dangerous Levels 2024
The water rose to bridge level during the Gatlinburg flood in early 2024 (photo by Corey Wagner/TheSmokies.com)

4. Don’t panic, but don’t take chances

Most of the hotels in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are far enough away from the rivers and streams that the likelihood of your room being affected is fairly slim. The exceptions to this would be some of the campgrounds on the water’s edge and some of the hotels along the river in Gatlinburg. Check with your specific facility if you have a concern and, if the hotel is near water, ask about flood policies before booking your room.

Also, it’s common sense, but if water is running over the road, don’t chance it. Water rises quickly in the mountains and if you’re trying to ford a stream, it can be higher than you expected very quickly. This goes for when you’re outside of your vehicle as well. Going tubing or kayaking when the water is high is an entirely different animal. Listen to the local experts before trying to ride abnormally high water. Rivers and streams that are normally fun can turn dangerous quickly. The same goes for wading or swimming. Be safe.

5. It’s different in the mountains

If you’re staying in a cabin or a chalet up in the mountains, everything changes. Because of the angle of repose near some of the smaller roadways at higher elevations, rockslides and mudslides can be common. Of course, some of the places can be tricky to reach even in good weather. Finally, water will accumulate quickly, but it will also move downstream quickly. If there’s flooding in the area of your vacation, talk to management, keep abreast of upcoming weather reports and be ready to be a little flexible. Most places want your business year after year so they’ll be willing to work with you if Mother Nature gets out of line. The most important thing to remember is safety first.

TheSmokies.com

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