Lightning strikes over One World Trade Center, center right, during a thunderstorm seen from The Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, N.J., Sunday, June 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Strong thunderstorms that knocked down trees in the Smoky Mountains foothills have forced the closing of some hiking trails.
Meanwhile, an assessment team from the National Weather Service office in Morristown arrived a midday Friday in the Cosby area to determine whether a tornado touched down.
Preliminary information from the weather service Thursday stated there was a report of a funnel cloud and said winds were clocked at more than 65 mph in a number of East Tennessee communities.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park managers report that several trails in Cosby and Big Creek are closed due to extensive damage from the wind and rain during the storm late Thursday afternoon. Scores of trees were felled and the trails were impassible.
Gabes Mountain Trail and Snake Den Ridge Trail in Cosby, and Baxter Creek Trail and Big Creek in Big Creek were closed and park officials said more trail closures were possible. The Park has also closed "B'' Loop of Cosby Campground due to storm damage.
"We are in the process of assessing the condition of all of the trails within the storm affected area," said acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. "Hikers and equestrians may want to confirm trail openings by contacting the Park's Backcountry Office or by visiting our website before planning routes through this section of the Park."
Updated trail information can be found online at www.nps.gov/grsm or by calling the park's backcountry office at (865) 436-1297.