After nearly 24 hours of drenching rain helped quench a series of devastating wildfires in eastern Tennessee, officials turned to cleanup and recovery efforts even as they battled their own personal crises.
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said discussions were under way about re-opening the resort city as early as Friday, which would give business owners and residents their first look at the damage in a city that has been closed since Monday night.
Werner has spent the better part of two days standing in front of TV cameras saying "everything is going to be OK," all while he lost the home he built himself along with all seven buildings of the condominium business he owned.
"I really can't dwell on it that much. I think of others that have lost theirs, and it keeps my mind off of our problems," he said while fighting back tears. "It's really hard, it's really tough."
Werner was just one of several city officials confronting the crisis while dealing with losses of their own. Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle also lost her home in the fire. And Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said the homes of several firefighters are among the estimated 300 plus buildings in the city that have been destroyed.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said officials plan to announce Thursday morning when local residents and business owners can return to the city. Authorities discovered three more bodies among the ruins Wednesday, raising the death toll to seven. But there were some happy moments, as three people who had been trapped since the fires started Monday night were rescued.
"That is some good, positive news for a change," he said.