ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
59°
Sunny
H 70° L 45°
  • clear-night
    59°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 70° L 45°
  • clear-day
    70°
    Afternoon
    Sunny. H 70° L 45°
  • clear-night
    66°
    Evening
    Clear. H 75° L 48°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

National
Tennessee wildfire death toll rises to 4; heavy damage for tourist mecca
Close

Tennessee wildfire death toll rises to 4; heavy damage for tourist mecca

Wildfires Force Evacuations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Tennessee wildfire death toll rises to 4; heavy damage for tourist mecca

Officials have confirmed that an additional person has died in connection with wildfires around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, bringing the death toll to four.

Three people were found dead from fires in the Chalet Village area, and one person was discovered dead near a motel on Highway 321. About four dozen people have been injured in the fires, The Associated Press reported.

>> Read more trending stories

Sandra Cooper was helping to move her daughter and son-in-law out of their Gatlinburg home Monday when smoke and fire overwhelmed them.

"The fire was too close," said Cooper, 68. "The smoke got so bad we had to leave."

With the moving truck half full, they took off to the Hampton Inn in nearby Pigeon Forge, where heavy storms overnight brought a tornado warning that forced the evacuation of the top floors.

Cooper, carrying her twin one-year-old grandkids, ended up staying under a lobby stairwell.

Her family has yet to return home; they don't even know if it's standing.

"Could anything else happen?" she asked. "I don't know what day it is."

>> Related: Tennessee fire was 'human-caused;' 4 dead; what we know now

Hundreds of homes and businesses have burned and more than 14,000 people have fled from the Tennessee tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge as flames ripped through the Great Smoky Mountains, officials said.

The blaze moved into the towns late Monday night and early Tuesday fueled by powerful wind gusts nearing 90 mph. Tourists and residents were sent scrambling as the fire bore down.

Wednesday morning the rain continued, a thankful reprieve. But it brought with it concerns about mudslides and other dangers for the firefighters still battling the blaze, one of a number torching tens of thousands of acres across the drought-stricken Southeast.

In the kitschy tourist mecca of Pigeon Forge, there was a strange juxtaposition of mood early Wednesday, Even as some evacuated from their homes filling hotels in nearby communities, others here on vacation were still heading to the various attractions in Pigeon Forge. The place was lit up in all its Christmas finery, with all manner of colored lights, brightly lit trees and giant lighted snowflakes on the street poles along the Parkway main drag.

>> Related: Tennessee Wildfires: Memphis couple missing in Gatlinburg

But there was a smoky haze in the air around attractions such as the Hatfield and McCoy dinner theater, the big building that looks like a the Titanic, and the Ripley Aquarium. The smell infests itself in your nose and works its way down into an irritation in your chest.

Yolanda Thompson walked into to the breakfast area of the Hampton Inn looking exhausted and disheveled.

She had evacuated her Gatlinburg home when the fire and smoke advanced quickly Monday due to heavy winds, some reaching 80 miles per hour.

"It's gone. It's gone," she said of her home. "We are one of many, many who lost their homes."

>> Related: After wildfires, Dollywood worker finds lone, charred Bible page at park

As daylight dawned Wednesday morning, the harsh realities of the fast-spreading fire became apparent in Gatlinburg, a mountain town in eastern Tennessee known as the gateway to the vast Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg is often described as a kind of geographical bowl, surrounded by tree-filled hills. Many homes there are right up against the woods.

Andrew Leon came up from Alpharetta to work on restoring a hotel, severely damaged by smoke.

"It's full of smoke," said the restoration worker. "We see this all the time. It sucks."

Joe Miklojachak, who joined him from the Alpharetta disaster restoration company Cotton USA, said, "We do this around the world. You just have to put aside your feelings and do your job. It's like being in the military."

>>Related: Gatlinburg aquarium: 'Animals are safe' after devastating Tennessee wildfires

About 300 people came to a makeshift shelter in the LeConte Event Center in Pigeon Forge on Monday night, many fleeing as part of the mandatory evacuation of Gatlinburg. By Tuesday evening, the number of people was down to about 30 as many found refuge with relatives and friends. The shelter also held 29 eagles from Dollywood, the popular tourist attraction here. The attraction was not damaged.

Dollywood - named for country music superstar Dolly Parton - is a popular area destination. It wasn't damaged, but the fire was close. About a dozen of its cabins were damaged, and the attraction had closed temporarily.

"People are frustrated, ready to go home, not knowing that there home is there," said Ellen Watkins, the Red Cross Shelter manager.

>>Related: Wildfires in Tennessee: Man 'hoping for a miracle' after losing touch with wife, daughters

A volunteer, Kathy Christian, posted a notice on Facebook that they had three dogs displaced in the fire. One person drove nearly two hours to pick up one dog, a white mutt with ears that looked like they had been dipped in chocolate. The dog had one brown eye and one blue.

Locals did what they could to help out. Players and staff from the Hatfield and McCoy theater volunteered at the shelter. The dinner theater offered a free lunch Tuesday, and the Comedy Barn offered a free show.

Heather Sami was among three nurses who showed up at a separate shelter on Gatlinburg. They helped people with breathing issues, offering inhalers and breathing treatments.

>> Related: Dolly Parton grieves as wildfire tears through her Tennessee hometown

Sami's husband had just worked 32 hours straight as a firefighter taking on the spreading flames.

"He was trapped in the Park Vista (hotel) for a time," she said. "By the grace of God he got out."

The fire spread quickly, she said. Just before, her husband had been doing work to prevent the spread of it, clearing debris and wetting down some structures. Then the intense winds whipped up "throwing fire everywhere," she said.

Vacationing here on her 35th wedding anniversary, Cindy McLain was taking in the shops in Gatlinburg when she saw what she thought was snow flitting through the air. But it was too warm for snow, she thought, and soon after realized it was ash from the growing fires.

>> Photos: Forest fires loom outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Within 20 minutes, "everything took on a reddish glow. You couldn't see the next stoplight."

She's from the New Orleans area and the tragedy here reminded her of the Katrina floods.

"Our hearts hurt for the people here," she said.

She and her husband evacuated to a hotel in Pigeon Forge.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • Pushing the House to take another step this week on the road to major tax reforms, President Donald Trump used an op-ed in USA Today to argue that GOP tax plans will “ignite America’s middle class miracle once again,” as he channeled former President Ronald Reagan, saying with “tax reform, we can make it morning in America again.” “Revising our tax code is not just a policy discussion — it is a moral one, because we are not talking about the government’s money – we are talking about your money, your hard work,” the President wrote. Mr. Trump meanwhile used a conference call with House Republicans on Sunday to make much the same argument – that now is the time for action on tax reform. Here is where things stand on Capitol Hill when it comes to GOP plans to move legislation on tax reform. 1. The budget comes first for the GOP. Before they can focus solely on tax reform, Republicans must approve a non-binding budget outline for 2018, which would authorize expedited action on a tax bill – without the threat of a Senate filibuster. The Senate approved their plan last Thursday, and now the House seems ready to accept that this week, though the budget details are sure to give some GOP fiscal hawks some heartburn, as the plan would not ensure a balanced budget within ten years. But GOP leaders are basically telling rank and file Republicans that now is the time for tax reform, and that there is no use in getting caught up in a battle over budget cuts. Look for the House to vote later this week. 2. But ‘what if’ the House refuses to go along? If enough Republicans refuse to vote for the Senate-passed budget, then there would have to be formal House-Senate negotiations, which could take some time to hash out a deal on the budget resolution for 2018. That would obviously delay work on tax reform, and make it that much more difficult to swiftly get a tax bill moving on Capitol Hill. It seems unlikely that will happen, as more conservative lawmakers have been assured they will get votes on measures dealing with budget savings. But it is safe to say that the ‘normal’ Republican focus on budget deficits has melted away now that the GOP is in charge of the White House and Congress. Here is the sales pitch being made by the Republican Study Group, which says Speaker Paul Ryan has promised votes on some budget-related bills. 3. Let’s assume the House approves the budget – then what? If the House heeds the advice of President Trump, and votes for the Senate-passed budget outline this week, then the focus will shift to the tax-writing committees of the House and Senate – the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee, as they produce an actual tax reform bill. Remember – we don’t have a bill as yet from the White House – just some bullet points. In 1985, President Reagan sent Congress an actual 489 page bill as a starting point. President Trump’s bullet points are just a small piece of a much larger bill that is expected to be released by Republicans, as the scrums of reporters grow each day for key lawmakers, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. 4. What’s the possible timing on tax reform? Ask veterans of Capitol Hill what they think about a GOP tax plan, and they cannot imagine it getting done this year (or even at all). But the White House and GOP leaders in Congress keep talking about doing it fast, maybe having a vote in the House before a Thanksgiving break, and a Senate vote in December. If we go back and look at the tax reform timeline in the Reagan Administration, it took a lot longer. The House Ways and Means Committee started work on a draft bill in late September 1985 – it took two months to finish. The deal almost fell apart in December, as the House voted to approve that plan just before Christmas. In the Senate, it took six months to get the bill out of committee and to a vote, in June 1986. In other words, Republicans think they can move at legislative warp speed compared to thirty one years ago in the Congress. House GOP leaders hope to pass tax reform by Thanksgiving, according to several ppl on House GOP conference call today w President Trump. — Ben Siegel (@benyc) October 22, 2017 5. Remember, there are a lot of details involved. If you are going to do just tax cuts, that’s pretty straightforward. But if you are going to try to do sweeping tax reform – for both the individual and corporate sides – that is very complicated. Just look back at 1986, and you can see that bill is filled with rifle-shot provisions intended to help just one company or group. Back then, there was no way to get this out to the voters. But with the internet and social media, these types of provisions will get a lot of attention and scrutiny. Will you be ready for the details of tax reform? I mean, the real nitty gritty details https://t.co/s7oyi1D2Bz pic.twitter.com/MQqHPgYpVX — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) October 22, 2017 6. One more thought on timing – from 1986. As I write this on October 22, it is 31 years to the day that President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act into law. But I clearly remembered the final agreement being struck in August – and the vote taking place soon after Labor Day. My memory was correct. So, why did it take another month for the President to sign the bill into law? For one, there were a number of errors in the final agreement, which needed to be fixed. So, on September 25, 1986, the House passed H. Con. Res. 395, to make “technical and clerical” corrections in the final bill. The Senate took that up a few weeks later, and made some changes, which were sent back to the House. The House made a few more changes. But no final resolution was agreed to, as the Congress adjourned for the year on October 18, 1986. So, four days later, the President signed the bill into law anyway. Want to do some more reading about what happened in 1986? Here you go: As we move closer to a tax reform bill, here's the breakdown of the 1986 Tax Reform Act – https://t.co/Zy4ycObxRl — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) October 20, 2017 And by the way, that explanation of the 1986 Tax Reform Act runs almost 1,400 pages. Happy reading!
  • If you're heading out to the last day of Oktoberfest on Sunday the ground may be muddy, but the sky will be sunny. National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Lacy says we're in for a nice day in the Tulsa area. “We’re going to see clear skies, lots of sunshine,” Lacy said.  “High temperatures will rise into the mid-70s.” The low Sunday night will be closer to 46 degrees. To start your work week on Monday, expect sunny skies and a high around 77 degrees.    
  • We avoided tornadoes in and around the Tulsa area Saturday night. However, Erin Maxwell with the National Weather Service out of Norman reports not everywhere was so lucky in our state. “There was a tornado that developed near the Riverwind Casino, southwest of Norman,” Maxwell confirmed.   Crews will go out in the morning to assess the strength of the tornado.  We do know there are multiple reports of damage in the area.  Additionally, Maxwell says the Moore, Oklahoma City area did get some hail.   “Anywhere from a quarter inch to a golf ball size,” Maxwell said. KRMG will update the story when more information comes into the newsroom.    
  • Large hail, heavy rain and winds up to 70 m.p.h are in the forecast for Green Country into late Saturday night. There is also a possibility of a tornado. The organizers of Oktoberfest decided to close early. Hundreds of PSO customers lost power shortly before 10pm Saturday.  You can get weather alerts sent to your cell phone on the KRMG app.  KRMG is in constant contact with meteorologists at FOX23 and the National Weather Service.  Tune to NEWS102.3 and AM740 KRMG for the very latest on the severe weather threat.
  • As the Congress gets moving in coming weeks on the first serious effort at tax reform since the mid-1980’s, it is important for the folks back home to remember one thing – while the focus for many Americans will be on the individual tax rates and changes that impact every day taxpayers, this package is likely to be about so much more than just that, as a look back at the big tax bills of the Reagan Administration so easily demonstrates. “I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts,” the President said in recent days, making the case that tax reform will spur economic growth in the United States. “We’re fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts, the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation. We’re fighting for tax reform, as part of that,” Mr. Trump said. And so, the voters have a bit of a homework assignment, because tax reform is about a lot more than just cutting the tax rate that Joe Six Pack and his wife pay to Uncle Sam. Your fact of the day: Congress has not acted on a major tax reform bill since the Tax Reform Act of 1986 — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) April 15, 2010 The 1980’s were an active time for the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee – those are the panels in charge of writing tax measures in the Congress. During the Reagan Administration, we had three major tax bills become law: + The Reagan tax cuts of 1981, the “Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.” + The next year, there was a major bill to increase taxes, the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982.” + Then, both parties came together for major changes to the Internal Revenue Code with the 1986 Tax Reform Act. If you look at the 1986 Act, it starts with something that may end up being a prime focus in 2017: Sec. 101. Rate Reductions Sec. 102. Increase in standard deduction But there is so much more that is involved in that 879 page bill, just as there was so much more than individual matters in the 1981 and 1982 tax bills. The 1986 bill had provisions on capital gains, real estate, business tax credits, investment tax credit, depreciation, energy, agriculture, limits on certain tax shelters, provisions affecting life insurance, pensions, foreign tax provisions, and on, and on, and on. Lots of people have told me in recent years of how lawmakers should “read the bill.” Well, the last three big tax measures from the 1980’s are all linked on this page. Read the bills. And start realizing just how complicated this can be on tax reform.