Great Smoky Mountain National Park announces closures ahead of Irma

UPDATE Monday, 4:16 p.m.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will close Newfound Gap Road and Little River Road on Monday at 5 p.m. due to the high winds moving through. From 2 to 3 p.m., sustained winds at Clingmans Dome were 30 mph with gusts up to 58 mph. At Cove Mountain, sustained winds were 23 mph with gusts up to 38 mph. They expect the strongest winds to move through Tuesday morning around 3 a.m.

Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Administrative facilities closed at noon. The Spur and Bypass will remain open at this time.

“We wanted to make sure we were taking our visitors and employers out of harms way before the biggest winds of the storm came through,” said Dana Soehn, Park spokesperson.

WATE spoke with a few families who evacuated from Florida to the Smoky Mountains who said they are thankful for the closures, anything to stay safe.

“It’s a good feeling. I just want to go somewhere safe until it’s over and the we will go back home to Florida,” said James Cardigan, who evacuated from St Augustine with his wife. “We are thankful to be safe.”

_____

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Out of an abundance of caution, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park said it is temporarily restricting or closing areas to ensure the safety of visitors ahead of Hurricane Irma.

“We understand that it is an inconvenience,” said Jamie Sanders with the GSMNP. “But we really urge them to understand that we are looking out for the safety of our visitors and employees.”

Sanders says past storms have taught the park employees to take extra precaution in severe weather situations.

“This time we are definitely ramping it up,” said Sanders. “What we’ve seen in the past is we’ve waited a little too long and it puts our employees at risk trying to get everybody out quickly and they just sometimes run out of time.”

Campgrounds will close after check-out Sunday beginning at noon. All other closures will go into effect at 6 p.m. The park Newfound Gap Road/Highway 441 will remain open until the park determines it is unsafe for travel.

“So typically with situations and weather events such as this, we receive a lot of flooding along roadways, and some flooding in our campgrounds that are located next to streams,” said Sanders. “We also usually see a lot of trees down both in our front country and our back country.”

The remnants of Irma are expected to impact Tennessee late Monday and into Tuesday, according to WATE 6 Storm Team Meteorologist Ken Weathers who said the western North Carolina edge of the park is likely to get more rain than East Tennessee.

More: How will Irma impact East Tennessee?

Closures

Picnic Areas

Closures begin at 6 p.m.

  • Cades Cove
  • Chimneys
  • Cosby
  • Greenbrier
  • Metcalf
  • Twin Creeks

Closures Implemented on Saturday

  • Big Creek
  • Collins Creek
  • Deep Creek
  • Heintooga

Campgrounds

Closures begin at 12:00 p.m. noon

  • Abrams Creek
  • Cades Cove
  • Cataloochee
  • Cosby
  • Elkmont
  • Smokemont

Closures Implemented on Saturday

  • Balsam Mountain
  • Big Creek
  • Deep Creek

Horse Campgrounds

Closures begin at 12:00 p.m. noon

  • Anthony Creek
  • Cataloochee
  • Tow-String

Closures Implemented on Saturday

  • Big Creek
  • Round Bottom

Roads

Closures begin at 6 p.m.

Tennessee

  • Abrams Creek Road
  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cherokee Orchard Road
  • Cosby Access Road
  • Elkmont Road
  • Forge Creek Road
  • Greenbrier Road
  • Laurel Creek Road
  • Little River Road
  • Rich Mountain Road
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Tremont Road
  • Wear Cove Gap Road
  • Ramsey Cascade Road including Ramsey Cascade Trail – Closures began Saturday
  • Tremont Road (Upper) from Tremont Institute to Middle Prong Trailhead – Closures began Saturday

North Carolina

  • Cataloochee Road
  • Lakeview Drive
  • Balsam Mountain Road
  • Clingmans Dome Road
  • Deep Creek Access Road and Tom’s Branch
  • Heintooga Ridge Road/Round Bottom Road/ Straight Fork Road
  • NC Hwy 284
  • Twentymile
  • Balsam Mountain Road – Closures began Saturday
  • Clingmans Dome Road – Closures began Saturday
  • Deep Creek Access Road and Tom’s Branch – Closures began Saturday
  • Heintooga Ridge Road/Round Bottom Road/ Straight Fork Road – Closures began Saturday
  • NC Hwy 284 – Closures began Saturday
  • Twentymile – Closures began Saturday

Facilities

Closures begin at 6 p.m.

  • Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin
  • Cable Mill Visitor Center
  • Cades Cove Stables
  • Smoky Mountain Stables
  • Smokemont Riding Stables
  • Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob – Closures began Saturday
  • Clingmans Dome Information Center – Closures began Saturday
  • Leconte Lodge – Closures began Saturday
  • Sugarlands Riding Stables – Closures began Saturday
  • Tremont Institute – Closures began Saturday

The park said additional closures may become necessary as the storm progresses. For a current list of closure visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s website.

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