Many East Tennesseans will spend the weekend cleaning up after storms ripped through our region.
Hurricane-strength winds hit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during a thunderstorm Thursday night that killed two people in the park.
"The drive up to Cade's Cove is total devastation. There's probably 2,000 trees down between Townsend and Cades Cove," said Bill Breidinger, a visitor from Mississippi.
The downed trees stretched from Cades Cove to Abram's Falls and left motorists and campers stranded for hours.
The storm forced rangers to close roads and large sections of the park. Three campgrounds also remain closed: Cades Cove, Abram's Falls, and Look Rock.
When the storm hit, the park was packed.
"To have such a wide swath of the park at a very busy time of year is highly unusual and certainly stressed our abilities," said Chief Park Ranger Clayton Jordan.
As rangers continued to search for hikers and campers Friday, crews worked to clear an emergency path.
"In many cases it took us many hours before we could get ambulances in to evacuate those injured in the Cades Cove and Abram's Creek areas," Jordan said.
Good Samaritans and rangers helped to stabilize some of the injuries. Breidinger was driving through the Cades Cove loop when the storm hit. He watched the car in front of him get slammed.
"A tree fell on his car, crushed his car and pinned him underneath. We were able to get the tree off the car and get him out from under the tree but he had some back injuries. So he laid in there until almost midnight before they were able to take him out in an ambulance," he said.
Campers in only tents as the 70 mile per hour winds arrived found safety in public camp buildings. Savanna Miller, 10, and her family went to the laundromat.
"Intertubes were flying everywhere. A tent was flying in the air and trees fell down. It was scary," Miller said.
Six hours later, rangers led dozens of campers to a Red Cross shelter in Townsend at Tuckaleechee Methodist Church. That's where the Breidestein family of seven and 31 others stayed the night without their belongings.
"We left diapers, formula, their birthday presents, everything is in our tent," said mom Amanda Breidestein.
The campers were able to caravan into the park to get their belongings this afternoon.
Rangers say it could be days before they can get RVs out.
While the storm came quickly, rangers say it will take weeks to recover.