ATHENS, Tenn. — While the Governor of Tennessee seeks a presidential disaster declaration for five counties hit by fire and storm November 30th, communities continue to work through the daunting task of cleanup, assessments, recovery and rebuilding.
The Southeast drought that had persisted from summer through fall fueled fires across six states, most notably Tennessee’s Great Smokey Mountains.
In the overnight hours of November 30, the Smokey Mountain fires went rampant as 80 mph winds drove a firestorm that created eight new fires by the next morning.
The front of moisture that eventually carried enough rain to quell fires to 50% containment was preceded by a 40-mile line of tornadoes and high winds. Worst hit in these storms was the community of Athens, Tennessee, near the original Mayfield Dairy Farm.
That rain was the first substantial rain since mid-June, according to University of Tennessee extension reports. But it had its impact after the fires first engulfed Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Lives were lost, injuries sustained, and homes and businesses destroyed.
Among the losses, Eastanallee Dairy Farm, owned by Blan and Kathy Dougherty, sustained destruction of its barns and milking facilities. The local community came to their aid.
According to Julie Walker, AgriVoice, “a great group of folks with animal and farm experience got first things done first. It was obvious the milk barn, and housing and feeding facilities received the brunt of the hit, and cows were not going to be able to be milked. Unfortunately, six just-weaned calves were killed,” she explained in a e-news post. “Steve Harrison, a neighbor to the Doughertys, generously agreed to temporarily house the cows until some decisions about the herd’s future could be determined.”
Last week, the Doughertys decided to have an emergency milking herd and bred heifer dispersal sale set for tomorrow — Friday, December 16 at 12 Noon — at the Athens Stockyards with basically just time for word of mouth and digital/social media advertisement.
It is hard enough to contemplate a dispersal of a dairy herd, and even tougher to do so under these circumstances. The Eastanallee herd is among the highest producing herds in Tennessee. A total of 114 milk cows and 15 bred heifers due through March will be offered. They will keep the yearlings and young stock as they evaluate their future, which may or may not include milking once again.
There was a massive amount of property damage on their farmstead, and while their home was damaged, the Doughertys are thankful to have not lost their home, as have many of their neighbors nearby.
We wish the Doughertys well, and our thoughts and prayers remain with the Athens community and all affected in East Tennessee. Many are homeless and services are taxed after the wildfire / tornado disasters in the counties of Coffee, McMinn, Polk, Sequatchie and Sevier for which the Governor requested this week a presidential disaster declaration.
Below are some links to two of the wildfire and tornado relief efforts.