Severe weather warning prompts preparations at GSMNP

April 5, 2017: Travelers and campers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are preparing their campsites as severe weather moves into the area.

Wednesday's severe weather warning comes during one of the busiest times of the year for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

With hundreds of families visiting for spring break, park officials are warning visitors to stay vigilant on roads and trails.

A short burst of winds hit the area early Wednesday afternoon, but meteorologists expected the brunt of the storm to reach the park after 8 p.m.

Park officials said maintenance crews were staged and ready to respond to any reports of fallen trees.

"Trees may come down on roadways and trails, and there's potential for heavy winter precipitation in the higher elevations to cause some problems as well," said GSMNP spokesperson Dana Soehn.

Soehn warned visitors to stay inside if possible, but some families were already camping outside in and near the park.

At the Greenbrier Campground just across from the Smokies, William DeFrance and his family of three had secured a wind-resistant tarp outside their mobile unit.

As avid travelers, their mobile home had previously lost its tarp twice before due to strong winds. On Wednesday afternoon, they began preparing for the storm in the best way they knew how.

"Tie things down, get them under the awning so they don't get rained on, and then man it out I guess," said DeFrance.

Camp manager Courtney Belmont monitored weather conditions throughout the afternoon, especially keeping watch over unattended mobile units whose awnings were still up.

"If the wind gusts are high enough, it can rip the awning off, which can cause some damage to the camper," she said. “That could [also] possibly be a problem if it carries the awning throughout the campground.”

Greenbrier Campground is privately owned and located outside of the national park, but Soehn said rangers would be available to help assist campers located in the national park’s campgrounds find shelter if necessary.

"We have specified areas within our campgrounds where, if need be, we will have rangers go in and bring everybody into those sheltered areas," she said.

With possible snow expected in the higher elevations, park officials are advising visitors to hold off on outdoor plans until the weekend.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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