Gatlinburg resident shares his story of how roads turned into rivers during the January 2024 flash flood event
I expected January 9, 2024, to be just another uneventful day in Gatlinburg. Sure, it had been raining since late the night prior. But the rising waters would soon provide much more drama than we could’ve ever anticipated. Our day began with my wife and son going to work in the morning, while I had another slow season day off. As the day lingered on, the rain persisted.
The Gatlinburg flash floods of 2024 gave us a front-row seat to nature’s powers. We were given warnings and weather reports of the dangers, but we were oblivious until we heard the sirens. This is a personal account of what we witnessed on the day of the event.
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Area sirens warn of flash floods
The lack of foot traffic in town that day resulted in my son coming home early from work. That’s about when we heard warning sirens. They weren’t entirely audible from our well-insulated apartment unit, so we opened the door to hear the message more clearly. They warned of flash flooding. Those near creeks and rivers were instructed to seek higher ground.
Regardless, curiosity got the better of us. We were determined to see it for ourselves despite the warnings. And so, we ventured into town on foot. Immediately, we saw Baskins Creek higher than we’d seen since we moved. We had been mired in a severe drought for months, so this sight was quite incredible.
The Little Pigeon River floods
We followed the raging Baskins Creek to the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg where we received a clear indication of what set off the sirens. The Little Pigeon River in front of Ripley’s Aquarium was roaring at a level we’d never seen before. The water was splashing over the bridge at traffic light #5 leading to the public parking garage behind the aquarium a few hours earlier. It was blocked off. We saw large logs being carried by the current, thumping loudly underneath the bridge.
We were awed by the furious power of the white noise from the flash flooding heard from River Road down the length of the Parkway. During our early afternoon encounter, we witnessed how high the waters had been hours earlier by the debris that was lying on the sidewalk and River Road. It was still partially flooded and blocked off to traffic when we arrived on the scene.
No major injuries or damages reported
I couldn’t help but wonder if any businesses were affected. Our first concern was No Way Jose’s, which is extremely susceptible to flooding, as it sits beside the river. While we witnessed the waters get close, it didn’t appear any damage was done to close the business beyond that day. Other businesses followed suit, temporarily closing their doors out of caution. Employee safety should always be number one, so it was nice to see some precautions taken as a direct result.
The rains ended shortly after we started our walk to witness nature’s fury, which was luckily only for a brief time. The floods eventually subsided just as quickly as they came. Thankfully, there were no injuries or major damages were reported. Everything was pretty much back to normal the next day.
Looking back, we were grateful and comforted by the warnings we were given. It makes us Gatlinburg residents feel safe knowing the emergency warnings were properly sent out. What started as a lazy day, ended up more eventful than we ever could’ve envisioned!
Did you witness the flash floods in Gatlinburg last month? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to follow us on social media @TheSmokiesCom.
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