Asheville Citizen Times
Published 9:39 PM EDT Sep 14, 2018
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The entire 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia and all of its facilities, visitor centers and campgrounds, except for the Pisgah Inn, were closed as of 8 p.m. EDT Friday in anticipation of high winds and heavy rains due to the remnants of Hurricane Florence, according to the National Park Service.
The U.S. Forest Service has already closed all of its recreation sites and campgrounds and most roads in the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests in western North Carolina, and portions of the Appalachian Trail that run through these areas are closed.
All seasonal gates will be closed to ensure no one has the opportunity to get trapped behind gates.
Saturated soils in combination with high winds in these areas increase the risk of rock slides, falling trees and debris on the parkway. This closure will remain in effect until further notice, the park service said.
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Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm Friday, but it still packed maximum sustained winds of up to 70 mph as it slowly moved inland from the Carolina coast, bringing with it the potential for torrential rain.
The parkway is the most visited site in the National Park Service, with 16.1 million visitors last year. Traffic starts to pick up at this time of year as fall leaves start to turn color, especially at the higher elevations surrounding Asheville.
Access to the Pisgah Inn, at Milepost 408, about 20 miles southwest of Asheville, will be via U.S. 276 only. There will be no access via the parkway from the north.
"The Pisgah Inn had reservations through the weekend, and since they have some access via U.S. 276, they want to be able to honor those commitments," said Leesa Brandon, parkway spokeswoman.
"I would expect if something drastically changes over the weekend, we’ll work with them to make any changes to the plan."
During this closure, all scheduled ranger programs and special events and uses are canceled.
During the closure order, these sections of parkway are closed to all use, including bicycling and hiking. Attempts to route around gates and barriers are prohibited.
"We’re going to see what the storm brings through the weekend and first of week and make decisions to reopen in the interest of the public and staff safety as well as parkway resources," Brandon said.
Updates and information regarding the status of park facilities, including the road itself, will be available on the Parkway’s Real Time Road Map, the parkway’s website, and its Twitter and Facebook pages. Visitors and neighbors are encouraged to check these sites regularly for information and before heading out to the parkway.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are closing some facilities due to the potential for downed trees, flooding, and landslides as the rain and winds from Florence hit the park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.