ASHEVILLE - The entire Blue Ridge Parkway south of the Virginia line, is now closing ahead of the expected heavy rains and powerful winds of Hurricane Irma.
The roadway, including the Asheville “commuter zone” between Craven Gap at Milepost 377 to N.C. 191 at Milepost 393 will be closed by 2 p.m. Monday, said Parkway Chief Ranger Neal Labrie.
“The parkway will not be open for the evening commute,” he said.
“All of the parkway run facilities including the five North Carolina campgrounds from Doughton Park (Milepost 239) to Mount Pisgah (Milepost 408.8), will close by noon today (Sept. 11) for a minimum 24-hour period. We will leave concessionaires to determine whether they will close.”
Concessionaires are privately run businesses such as the Pisgah Inn. But the only way to reach the Inn, at Milepost 407, will be from the north at U.S. 276.
All parkway facilities include visitor centers, campgrounds and picnic areas. Gates at all parkway entrances, including Hendersonville Road, U.S. 74A, U.S. 70 and Town Mountain Road, will be closed.
By noon today all campgrounds will be closed, and should be open by noon on Wednesday.
The parkway will also be closed from Rocky Knob/Route 8 at Milepost 165 in Virginia, south to the North Carolina state line, is also closing today.
“Information related to the path of Hurricane Irma from the National Weather Service, suggests strong winds at higher elevations,” said park spokeswoman Leesa Brandon.
The parkway, which runs from the Boone vicinity, directly through Asheville, ending at Cherokee, contains a wide range of elevations, from about 2,200 feet in Asheville to more than 6,600 feet at Mount Mitchell State Park.
Weather reports also suggest isolated flash flooding over the foothills and mountains of the Southern Blue Ridge.
“We have some vulnerable areas, based on the landslides this spring like to err on side of caution and reassess as rain continues,” Brandon said.
Two major rock slides, including one in May near Craggy Gardens and one in July near Mount Pisgah, closed the parkway for weeks.
“Speed and hazards will come into play even more today, Labrie said. “When it gets dark earlier that’s when reaction time is dramatically limited, and motorists need to take that into consideration on any roads.”
Find more parkway traffic updates on Facebook and at www.nps.gov/blri.
The Asheville Citizen-Times