Saturday 11:00am: At this writing, the death toll from the ferocious wildfire that erupted across the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has risen to 13, with most of the victims still remaining unidentified.
The grisly total is likely to increase as officials continue to search and assess the damage. One person told me that the true death toll is perhaps three times the currently reported number. The good news is that at this time search crews say they have found "quite a few" of the 70 or so people who were reported missing. The truth is that we may never know the true final tally. Friday and Saturday mornings here I spent hours on the phone hearing some of the damn wildest, most disturbing stories from people who fled the fire.
The stories ranged from seeing buck naked people racing from the fire, to reports that more water was coming out of the Gatlinburg waste water treatment facility than there was flow in the Little Pigeon River passing through the town. One bit of good news too is from Chad Williams of Smoky Angler Fly Shop who says that while there is an undetermined degree of smoke damage, their structure did not perish. They expect to be open in a little over a week, and well in advance of Christmas...
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