I know that when designing disaster exercises, no one wants to have communications go out for any period of time. Therefore, we really don't practice working in degraded communications environments. Thus, when an actual event takes out one's communications system — all hell breaks loose and you don't know what is going on. This then is what evidently happened in Gatlinburg when they experienced their wildfires that entered the city. See Gatlinburg Wildfire Records Tell Story of Chaos, Confusion.
Usually the "fog of war" is used to describe these situations; here it was the "smoke of war" that obscured a coordinated response by public agencies.