published Friday, July 6th, 2012

Gallery: Strong winds wreak havoc in the greater Chattanooga area

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A storm Thursday produced winds strong enough to cause problems ranging from a boat capsizing on water to spreading brush fires on land.

A boat containing about a dozen people on Chickamauga Lake near the Island Cove boat ramp off Highway 58 capsized because of the heavy wind, according to officials. Two people received CPR and were taken by ambulance to Erlanger hospital, according to Bill Tittle, chief of Hamilton County Emergency Management. There also have been isolated injuries throughout the county, he said.

Evening storms were also the catalyst for widespread fires Friday.

According to a dispatcher, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office received incessant calls that heavy winds knocked down trees and power lines, sparking several brush fires from one end of the county to the other, the dispatcher said, calling the evening "a mess."

Bradley County also reported at least 10 brush fires resulting from down, sparking power lines. No injuries in either counties were reported.

The damage was caused by severe thunderstorms in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia on Thursday.

Walker and Catoosa counties in Georgia also were dealing with the severe weather, as dispatchers in both were rushing to take damage calls. Trees and power lines also were down in Walker County, a dispatcher said.

In Tennessee, trees and power lines also were reported down in Bradley, Polk, Rhea, McMinn and Meigs counties.

Rescue workers were cutting their way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday night to reach visitors stranded and perhaps injured when a fast-moving storm blasted its way through East Tennessee, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Multiple trees were down in the park, cars have been crushed and authorities believe people are trapped, but they do not know how many or the extent of injuries, said Don Stallions, chief of the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department.

A command center was being set up near the park's Townsend entrance.

"We're calling all hands on deck," said Deputy Superintendent Scott Fitzgerald, including all available rangers and staff, as well as personnel from North Carolina.

Most of the reports are in the areas of Little River Road east of the Y, Laurel Creek Road into Cades Cove and the Abrams Creek campground, according to the News Sentinel.

As of 10 p.m., about 25,000 people served by EPB were without power, according to EPB spokeswoman Deborah Dwyer. Power outages were dispersed throughout the area and not relegated to one area, she said.

She said it may take a couple of days to completely restore power.

Downed trees and power outages were reported in Red Bank and northern Chattanooga.

Sam Roberts, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn., said the remainder of Thursday evening was expected to not be severe.

A severe storm warning was issued for parts of Southeast Tennessee on Thursday afternoon, Roberts said.

"It's very windy from Southwest Virginia to the Southern Valley," he said.

Showers and thunderstorms are forecast throughout today, but they'll be much more scattered, Roberts said.

"We don't anticipate to issue as many watches or warnings [today]," he said.

The Knoxville News Sentinel contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Adam Poulisse at 423-757-6592 or apoulisse@times freepress.com.

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