Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rain is dampening spirits of leaf peepers and barely helping drought in the Smokies

Today marks the second day of light rain in the Great Smoky Mountains, just in time for one of the heaviest weekends of peak leaf season visitation and damping the spirits of some leaf peepers, but not enough to put a dent in the water shortage caused by 2 years of drought.

The rain though light, is knocking many leaves that turned in the trees onto the ground making hiking and driving on the wet slippery leaves a little more hazardous than normal.

As more and more leaves fall to the ground the threat of wildfires increases especially given the huge numbers of trees that have died in the past 2 years due to the stresses of drought, last years late freeze and the massive hemlock kill off caused by the invasive exotic pest the Hemlock woolly adelgid which is decimating the hemlock trees throughout the Great Smoky Mountains.

All of this excess fuel is creating the potential for a huge wildfire situation and we need to make sure that we clear as much brush as possible from around our homes and make firebreaks.

Last week a cabin rental company America Mountains Rentals had just cleared brush from the sides and behind a cabin for rent on Bluff Mountain in Wears Valley just days before a brush fire broke out threatening the entire mountainside.

A total of 5 local fire departments fought the wildfire day and night and were able to put it out that to the fact that there was a firebreak that slowed the fire down.

Rain is dampening spirits of leaf peepers and barely helping drought in the Smokies

That entire section of Bluff Mountain was evacuated and fortunately American Mountain Rentals had a large enough inventory of cabins that they were able to give the evacuees alternate accommodations for the rest of their vacations.

Another cabin fire a few days ago burnt a large 4 bedroom luxury rental unit to the ground and luckily everyone was able to escape without injuries.

It is also crucial that we don't treat fire carelessly in the backcountry only making a fire when absolutely necessary in within a safe campfire containment area in designated campsites. More than once, I have come across a deserted campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and found a fire still smoldering in a fire pit or ring.

It is also important that if you have been driving for a while that you do not park on top of a pile of leaves as your hot exhaust system can actually cause the leaves to ignite setting the leaves and your car on fire.

Light rain is expected to fall on and off throughout much of the Smokies today, and the weather should return to bright sunny skies by tomorrow.

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