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Red Flag Warning Prompts Closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Roads and Campgrounds

(Photo: charlotteobserver)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Implements Closures During Red Flag Warning and Wildfire Threat

In response to a red flag warning and hazardous weather outlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed numerous roads, including Elkmont and Cades Cove campgrounds, due to heightened fire risk from strong winds and hurricane-force gusts. (Photo: newschannel9)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Takes Swift Action in Response to Red Flag Warning and Wildfire Threat

According t0 source, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, responding to a red flag warning and a hazardous weather outlook from the National Weather Service, has closed numerous park roads, including Elkmont and Cades Cove campgrounds, due to the heightened fire risk posed by strong winds and hurricane-force gusts. The closures, implemented on Monday afternoon, prompted park rangers to inform campers and advise all visitors in the park to vacate promptly. A subsequent wildfire near Rich Mountain Road in Tennessee, growing to six acres by Tuesday, led to the closure of campgrounds, facilities, and roads until the expiration of high wind and red flag warnings.

The wildfire, situated in steep, rugged terrain within the park boundary, initiated a voluntary evacuation of homes near the park boundary in Blount County, Tennessee. While an investigation into the fire’s cause is underway, no structures or properties were threatened as of Monday.

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash emphasized the priority of employee and visitor safety during these closures, aiming to eliminate as much risk as possible during this dangerous weather event, as indicated by the red flag warning.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Urges Vigilance as Red Flag Warning Raises Fire Risk

A red flag warning, indicative of heightened fire risk due to very low humidity and stronger winds, accentuates the existing burn ban in Great Smoky Mountains, prohibiting all campfires and charcoal use. Despite these challenges, the park, attracting 12.9 million visitors in 2022, maintains its status as the most visited national park in the U.S., covering extensive, densely forested terrain along the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Notably, in November 2016, the Chimney Tops Fire, fueled by strong winds, spread to Gatlinburg, resulting in 14 fatalities.

Visitors are strongly advised to exercise extreme caution, regularly check the park website for alerts, and heed warnings from the National Weather Service and local emergency managers regarding the red flag warning. Hikers should refrain from venturing out during periods of high wind. The park is expected to provide an update on conditions and closures on Tuesday afternoon.

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