Great Smoky Mountains National Park began closing roads, picnic areas and campgrounds on Friday and will shut down more areas today ahead of Hurricane Florence’s arrival as a tropical storm.
“Predictions from the National Weather Service indicate Florence will be a tropical depression rated-storm when she reaches the Smokies beginning as early as Saturday evening,” the park said in a press release Friday afternoon.
“Officials anticipate sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts Saturday afternoon and into Monday, with the most severe weather predicted for Sunday,” the release states. “Rainfall amounts of 4-8 inches Saturday afternoon through Monday evening are estimated, with higher rainfall amounts possible for the North Carolina side of the park.”
The park started closing roads and facilities Friday “out of concern for public safety:”
• Heintooga/Balsam Mountain picnic area.
• Balsam Mountain front country campground.
• Round Bottom horse campground.
• Balsam Mountain, Heintooga Ridge, Round Bottom and Straight Fork roads.
Projected closures today include:
• Big Creek, Cosby and Greenbrier picnic areas.
• Abrams Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee and Cosby front country campgrounds.
• Big Creek and Cataloochee horse campgrounds.
• In Tennessee, Abrams Creek and Cosby Access roads; Foothills Parkway East; Foothills Parkway West, from Look Rock to U.S. Highway 129, at 8 p.m.; Ramsey Cascade Road, including Ramsey Cascade Trail; Rich Mountain Road, at 8 p.m.; Tremont Road (Upper) from Tremont Institute to Middle Prong Trailhead, at 8 p.m.; and Wear Cove Gap Road, at 8 p.m.
• In North Carolina, Cataloochee Entrance Road; Clingmans Dome Road, at 8 p.m.; Newfound Gap Road, from Smokemount to Newfound Gap, at 8 p.m.; North Carolina Highway 284; and Twentymile.
The facilities and concession operations to close are:
• Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob; Appalachian Clubhouse, after last reservation; Clingmans Dome Information Center, at 8 p.m.; Leconte Lodge; and Spence Cabin, after last reservation.
“If the storm continues on its current track, additional closures may go into effect on Sunday,” the press release states. “Scheduled closures will make most park trailheads inaccessible. Overnight backcountry use is not recommended beginning Saturday through Monday due to the potential threat of downed trees and flooded stream crossings causing rivers and trails to become hazardous.
“All backcountry reservation holders are encouraged to change their itinerary or cancel their permit and receive a refund. Refunds will be available to those who are unable to reschedule their trip for an alternative date,” the release states.
Up-to-date road and weather information is available by calling 865-436-1200. Extension 631 provides road information, and extension 630 provides a weather forecast.
Current road status updates can be found on Twitter at SmokiesRoadsNPS, or by texting “follow smokiesroadsnps” to 40404.