Cheaha State Park still recovering from severe weather damage - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Cheaha State Park still recovering from severe weather damage

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For most of us, this week's snow and ice was an inconvenience. For Alabama's Cheaha State park, it was devastating. Alabama's highest point got pummeled, and the damage is hard to see.

"I've been here for 32 years and I've lived here my whole life so this has been really heartbreaking, said Tammy Power, park Superintendent.

Her first visit was on a field trip as a young girl. Today, the very place that inspired her to turn her love into a career has been severely damaged.

"I've not seen this much tree damage in my lifetime," she said.

Power and other park employees started monitoring the weather forecast last Sunday. By Wednesday night, all guests had been evacuated. Then Thursday morning came.

"There was a lot of popping and cracking in a lot of the trees and you could hear the trees falling. And when the power went out we knew that it was going to be quite a while."

By sunup, at least six inches of ice covered much of the park. Power says engineers counted some 140 downed trees as they made their way up the mountain. Still today, ice remains and downed trees are being moved. Electricity has been restored, but Power says the park is nowhere near ready to reopen.

Prior to the storm, nearly all of the park's 16 cabins were booked for the weekend. They've had to cancel those reservations and take a financial hit.

"Alabama state parks do not receive general fund money. So when you come to visit a park, you're what keeps our park going. You're everything. And we need every bit of money that we having coming. So everyday that we're closed can be devastating for us," said Power.

Alabama Power, local fire departments, and the Department of Transportation have all been instrumental in the recovery effort. Aside from tree damage, plumbing in the cabins and other park facilities still need to be examined. Power says she expects the park to be partially  opened next Thursday.

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