Great Smoky park copes with storm damage

July 7, 2012 at 3:01 PM   |   0 comments

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., July 7 (UPI) -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park remained closed Saturday as the U.S. Park Service struggled with downed trees and searched for backcountry campers.

Two people were killed by falling trees Thursday evening when a violent storm swept across the park, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported. Rachael Burkhart, 41, of Corryton, Tenn., and Ralph Frazier, 50, of Buford, Ga., died within about 5 miles of each other, rangers said.

The tree that killed Burkhart also knocked a 7-year-old girl into the water and held her down. She was pulled to safety and revived with CPR.

Frazier was riding his motorcycle with his girlfriend, who was injured.

The storm formed in the Ohio River valley and became more intense as it moved south, CNN reported. While it was short, with most places experiencing no more than half an hour of high wind and rain, it was very destructive.

The park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border is the most visited in the national park system.

By late Friday, most visitors to the park had been accounted for, but rangers were still checking for backcountry campers. Campers at other sites were told they could remain in the park but would not be able to return once they left until the park reopens.

The storm also knocked out power to thousands of people in the Knoxville, Tenn., area.

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