Updated: As Hurricane Sandy Nears Land, National Park Service Closing Parks And Offices
Hurricane Sandy's approach to landfall has prompted the closure of a number of National Park System units, including Shenandoah National Park and parks in the Washington, D.C., area. The evolving storm is starting to affect more southerly locations as well, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park where more than a half-foot of snow closed Newfound Gap Road, US 441, for the second time at about 2:30 pm on Monday.
Smokies public affairs spokesperson Dana Soehn says the road across the park was closed all Sunday night as four to five inches of snow accummulated at Newfound Gap and 7 inches fell atop high peaks. The road was reopened Monday morning at 11 am "and quite a few folks and news media went up to see the first snow of the season," Soehn said. The snow abated for awhile but has again closed the road which may remain closed for some time as the storm increasingly spreads its wrap-around moisture into the Southern Appalachians.
At Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Superintendent John J. Donahue announced that the NRA closed all offices and facilities at noon Monday in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. The National Weather Service is predicting heavy rainfall and strong winds in New Jersey, northeast Pennsylvania, and New York as Hurricane Sandy moves up the Mid-Atlantic coast through Wednesday.
The potential for power outages, flooding and downed trees is high and will make conditions throughout the park hazardous for visitors and employees, NRA officials said. Depending on the impact from the storm, road closures are anticipated and may include U.S. Route 209 and River Road in Pennsylvania and Old Mine Road and NPS Route 615 in New Jersey.
At Shenandoah in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the park's north and south districts, including concessions facilities, campgrounds, picnic areas, and visitor center, were closed at dusk on Sunday, the Park Service said. Skyline Drive gates into both districts also were shuttered. The Central District, including all concessions facilities (Skyland Resort, Big Meadows Lodge and Wayside, and Lewis Mountain Cabins), park facilities, and the Skyline Drive, were to close today at noon, and all visitors and park and concessions employees were required to leave the park by noon.
On Sunday, park staff swept trailhead parking lots and the backcountry to warn hikers and backpackers about the approaching storm and park closures. The entire park will remain closed until Hurricane Sandy has moved away from the northern Virginia area.
In Washington, all federal offices were closed today and all parks in the Park Service's National Capital Region also were closed.
At Assateague Island National Seashore on the Virginia-Maryland coast, winds were gusting to 60 mph on Sunday and overwash was occurring from both the bay side and the ocean side.
At Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey, the Sandy Hook Unit has been closed and evacuated. Fire Island National Seashore also was evacuated on Sunday.
Behind the storm, both Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores on North Carolina's Outer Banks have experienced flooding and some electrical outages. At Hatteras, Ocracoke Village has been flooded, and there have been rolling blackouts in the village. Overwash was reported Sunday on North Carolina 12 at Ocracoke as well as north of Hatteras Village, Frisco, Buxton and Rodanthe.