Joe Wheeler State Park takes a hard hit in Monday's storms

Multiple buildings have damage and thousands of trees are down at Joe Wheeler State Park.

Posted: Dec 18, 2019 4:44 PM
Updated: Dec 19, 2019 9:06 AM

Joe Wheeler State Park is temporarily closed to the public and the campgrounds are closed indefinitely after storms ripped through the beloved park.

Park officials estimate there are thousands of trees down in the park. Officials were just able to clear the roads to make them accessible on Tuesday so utility crews could get in and try to get power back to the park that's been down since Monday.

The campgrounds at the park normally look like a forest with 100-foot pine trees, but now, most of those trees are on the ground. At least 13 structures at the park have substantial damage from trees falling on them.

On Wednesday, the Alabama State Parks strike team was still working to remove trees off of the buildings. Strike team members have come from other parks all over the state to help clear roads and cut up trees.

"For me, this is the worst one I've been to. I've been to the Gulf and other parks, but this is by far the worst," said Jeremy Donahoe, a strike team member.

District park superintendent, Chad Davis, gave WAAY 31 a tour of the damage. Trees were down everywhere. One staffer's unoccupied camper had a tree through it. The night of the storms, park rangers got everyone in the lodge for safety.

"I was here before daylight the next day. It's heart breaking," said Davis.

At least 13 structures at the park from pavilions, bathrooms, the day center and other buildings have damage. Davis opened the door to one bath house building and looked at the damage.

"It's all demolished. These bathrooms have been here since the 1970s," said Davis.

The campground is closed until further notice.The park has had to cancel campground reservations that were slated for the next month.

"This does take a major hit on park revenue. Our campground revenue is around $400,000 a year," said Davis.

The park might have power by Wednesday afternoon. Curtis Moon works and lives at the park. He's been without power since Monday.

"It looks like a war zone. It's hard to take, because it happened so close to the house," said Moon.

Park officials are still trying to estimate how long cleanup will take and how much money it will cost to fix everything. The marina and lodge at the park did not sustain any damage.

Richard Herston, the mayor of Rogersville, said they need the state to step up, because the park is the lifeline to the town of Rogersville.

"It's really bad and we need support to help get it up and running. I want to plea with the state to help us," said Herston.

The National Weather Service said crews would be at the park possibly as early as Thursday to survey the storm damage. The director of Alabama State Parks will be surveying the damage on Thursday as well.

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