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.

Comments

what about the ponies on Assateague? can the park service let them over the causeway and get off the barrier island? please?

I am very scared for the ponies. I live in Upstate NY, but my heart and soul rides with those ponies. I can feel it every time I am there. And every time I am there and see them running, whether it's down the beach or in the dunes, it brings me to to tears every time. I so love those darn ponies.

The wildlife on the islands are no strangers to hurricanes. If the ponies do not survive Sandy they obviously do not belong on the island.

Anonymous, it is saddening to read such non-compassionate comment as reply to the first comments. Those ponies as well as all other wildlife living on Assateague have lived there for a long time, and to call them 'unfit' to live there if they cannot survive Sandy is despiccable. This is the biggest storm in a century, and will affect 20% of the US population. Will you tell those families who already have lost humans to this storm (4 at this point) that they were 'not fit' to live wherever they lived?

I am very concerned about all people's and animals' well-being and was hoping to find some information on what's going on on Assateague, especially if the ponies could be evacuated.

I just spoke to the Chincoteague fire dept and they said the ponies went over to Assateauge. The rescue office is not open so we cannot offer to help either. They also cannot get over to the island yet to assess how many ponies are left.

I now live in upstate NY too, family is from Baltimore and spent all my summers down in OC. I feel the same way about those ponies and beaches, brings tears to my eyes too. They are so beautiful! Praying that they are all safe.