Knoxville/ Parks & Nature
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Published on March 26, 2024
High Winds Force Closure of Roads and Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkSource: Unsplash/ Sandy Millar

Nature's fury has left its mark on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as numerous roads have been shuttered due to trees toppling like dominoes, thanks to aggressive winds that barreled through overnight. Park visitors found themselves with fewer ways to explore as winds, that according to the National Weather Service hit peak gusts of 85 mph, wreaked havoc through the popular nature retreat.

A string of closures was announced, with roads like the Gatlinburg Bypass and Newfound Gap Road (US 441) falling victim to the unexpected wind onslaught. Keeping to their duty to ensure public safety, park officials stated to WVLT, "Trees were knocked down over trails and roads," leading crews to scramble in an effort to clear the unplanned timber barricades. But given the breadth of the closures, which also include Little River Road and Laurel Creek Road, a busy day lies ahead for those wielding chainsaws.

The chaos didn't end on the asphalt. Trails and byways, essential veins for tourism and park enjoyment, are blocked as well. Park officials rang the alarm bell early, acknowledging that "Crews are assessing conditions, clearing trees and will open roads when it is safe to do so," according to a statement obtained by Knox News. This sentiment echoes across all updates, with safety taking the steering wheel over convenience or quick access.

Amid the turmoil, a list of affected areas has been issued. It includes the Foothills Parkway new section and a segment between Look Rock and US 129. Visitors planning a serene drive or a calm hike in these locales will have to revise their itineraries. According to WATE, "Downed trees have caused the closure of multiple roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after a high wind event between Monday night and Tuesday morning," making clear that Mother Nature has, for now, reclaimed her territory.

While teams work tirelessly to reopen routes, which also include Cherokee Orchard Road at the park boundary, Greenbrier Road at the ranger station, and Wears Gap Road, travelers are advised to seek alternative plans or park regions to enjoy. For the latest information on road reopenings, park visitors are encouraged to monitor official park channels and local news updates.