Snow and cold doesn't deter some Smokies visitors

Oct. 30, 2012 @ 12:08 PM

Highway 441 across the Smokies was closed on Tuesday as heavy, wet snow continued to fall.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said snow at Newfound Gap had reached about 24 inches late Tuesday morning, and some snow drifts were as high as 3 or 4 feet.

At LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern U.S., the 15-or-so visitors already there were encouraged to stay an additional night. Those who had reservations but had not yet arrived were encouraged to stay away.

Soehn said that with road closures the hike between the lodge and the nearest parking area would be at least six miles.

"It really is waist-deep snow, and most people are not prepared for that," she said.

Another 30 people had overnight reservations along the Appalachian Trail's backcountry shelters, although park officials did not know how many of those people had followed through with their hiking plans.

Soehn said they have received no distress calls.

Dean Siornicke of Spring Hill, Fla., and friend Leland Kinkade told the Knoxville News Sentinel on Monday that the snow didn't bother them.

"This is what we came here for," Kinkade said. "We just found a shelter and as much wood as we could for the fire and hung a tarp over the door. It was about 31 degrees outside and about 50 degrees inside. We had a blast."

But Jenny and Terry Bourg were not as prepared for the storm when they came from Houma, La., to rent a cabin for their 25th wedding anniversary.

As they struggled to make their way through the snow on Monday, Terry Bourg told the paper, "We've seen nothing like this in our lives."

Snow and high winds were expected to continue through Wednesday morning.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt said the only storm-related problem reported to the agency as of Tuesday morning was an overturned salt truck in Carter County.