The Pennington Gap Town Council received a request at their meeting last week that the town move to provide an indoor recreation facility that would include a swimming pool, exercise equipment, and an indoor walking track. Council member Jill Carson said the group should speak to the board of supervisors and school board to make this a countywide project.
Councilman Gary McElyea said the hospital may be able to help and Town Manager Keith Harless agreed to conduct a feasibility study needs assessment.
On Monday afternoon, a wildfire from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park spread into nearby communities after wind gusts up to 87 mph scattered embers across long distances, starting fires fed off the drought-stricken trees and leaf litter.
More than 14,000 residents and visitors are believed to have been evacuated from Gatlinburg alone. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, 3 had been found dead by crews searching the scorched aftermath. About 12 people were taken to hospitals, mostly with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller.
TEMA reports that hundreds of structures were destroyed, including a 16-story hotel and an apartment complex. More than 150 other structures in the county are believed damaged or destroyed. 14 active structure fires remained into Tuesday morning.
Fires were at the edge of the Dollywood theme park in nearby Pigeon Forge on Tuesday morning, officials said. All 1,500 animals at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg are safe, the aquarium said on Twitter. Staff members were forced to evacuate from the attraction on Monday.
Fire crews from around the country are supporting the effort, including volunteers from the Dryden Fire Department and Big Stone Gap Fire Department.
Several local and national organizations are offering ways to help those affected by the wildfires. Nationally, the American Red Cross is accepting donations at redcross.org/donate.
Appalachia town manager Fred Lunceford has identified a woman who was killed in Wise County over night as 38-year-old Janina Gina Lorraine Jefferson, a water plant operator for the Town of Appalachia.
Authorities say the homicide occurred sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning.
In a Facebook post Monday, the Wise County Sheriff's Office asked for the public's assistance in finding Eric Monroe Jones, who the department called a person of interest.
Authorities said Jones is to be considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached. If you have information on his whereabouts, contact 911 or the Wise County Sheriff's Office at 1-276-328-3756.
Lunceford said Jefferson had three children, a freshman in college, a senior in high school and a grade-school aged child. She had reportedly worked at the plant for six years.
Officials with the Wise County Sheriff's Office, Big Stone Gap Police Department and Appalachia Police Department are investigating. No details have been released on how Jefferson was killed.
Jones is also wanted on a felony probation violation with an original charge of attempt murder for hire.
As authorities investigated the homicide, a soft lock down was issued at Union High School Monday afternoon, according to Wise County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Mullins. Mullins said the soft lock down did not interrupt classes and was taken as a precaution. Students did not go outside for P.E. classes or for lunch.
Drought conditions continue to worsen and now Lee County has been given an extreme drought designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor for the first time in Virginia since 2010.
The monitor's classifications range from abnormally dry to exceptional drought Lee County is one step below the highest level.
At this pount, the county would require days of drenching rainfall to bring the water levels back up and rain is expected midweek, but conditions are likely to remain dry.
Lee County Offices Observing Thanksgiving Holidays:
Lee County Schools: Closed Wed, Thurs, Fri
Lee County Courthouse: Closed 12 noon Wed, Closed all day Thurs and Fri
Lee County Social Services: Closed Wed, Thurs, Fri
All other county and state offices will be closed for the holiday as well.
Lee High English teacher Alex Long has been invited to present a lecture at Oxford University in London, England in January. Long has taught Honors English classes at Lee High for 3 years now. He will present a lecture entitled "Acting Coy: Eliza Haywood's 'Fantomina' As A Feflection of the 18th Century British Stage".
Long is currently pursuing a Master's in English Literature with ETSU and was chosen for an article he wrote for the master's program, which will be published by the Oxford University Press next Spring.
A Wise County man died early Sunday after being ejected from his car during a single vehicle crash near Wise.
The Virginia State Police reported that Senior Trooper J.T. Funk responded at 8:31 a.m. to the scene on the southbound lanes of U.S. Route 23 less than a mile south of Route 23B. The VSP said a 2005 Hyundai Elantra was traveling north on U.S. Route 23 when it ran off the right side of the road.
The VSP believes the driver overcorrected, causing the vehicle to cross back over the northbound lanes and off the left side of the highway. The car went into the median and overturned, then continued across the southbound lanes and struck the guardrail.
The car finally came to rest in the shoulder area of the southbound lanes. The VSP said the driver, Roy E. Clark, 60, of Wise, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The crash remains under investigation.
Wellmont Health System has announced it will restrict hiring to those who do not use tobacco products.
The policy took effect on October 31 and requires testing all applicants who have been offered employment at Wellmont for the presence of nicotine and other tobacco substances.
If the test is positive, the conditional hiring process for an applicant will cease and the person will not be employed.
Wellmont spokesman Jim Wozniak says his new requirement also affects contract workers who could potentially work at Wellmont as well as physicians.
Wellmonts says exposure to the smell from tobacco products can cause discomfort for our patients and staff members.
Those who seek a job with Wellmont and are disqualified due to a positive test will be eligible to reapply for a position with the health system after three months.
While drones are becoming a growing industry, they are now posing a risk to those fighting the recent wildfires. Drones around wildfires can ground an aircraft working to extinguish fires and protect crews below.
Tennessee State law has dubbed wildfires a "no drone zone" and interfering with the efforts of firefighters to extinguish a fire can result in a significant fine and/or a court appearance.
In Virginia there is no law addressing drones during wildfires, but if fire officials determine the drone is preventing firefighting efforts, then the drone operator could face charges.
Earlier this week firefighters noticed a drone flying above fire they were working to contain in Appalachia.
Pilots are worried the drones could pose a risk to those flying as well as those on the ground if the aircraft were to collide. Aircraft are instructed to immediately land if a drone is spotted.
Officials are asking the pilots of those unmanned aircraft to steer clear of the areas where fire operations are currently going on.