Thursday, November 15, 2007

First snow of the 2007 winter had too much accumulation and ice for the National Park Service and cars on Newfound Gap Road.

Snow started falling in the higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains national park with some accumulation making a challenge for both motorists and the park service to keep the roads safe and clear so Newfound Gap Road 441 from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC is closed.

The National park service has been trying all day to keep the area near Newfound Gap clear but the dropping temperatures in the past hour has locked some sections of Newfound Gap Road into virtual sheets of ice.

Newfound Gap road closed due to snow and ice

While driving up one of the crests about 1/2 mile underneath Newfound Gap on the Tennessee side I experienced the conditions first hand as I felt my car slipping backwards downhill while I was stopped.

I then watched in dismay at cars getting stranded as they started to lose control and veer off of the road while they tried to turn around and get off the mountain top and head back to the Sugarlands Gatlinburg area which was free ice and accumulated snow.

I was luckily able to turn around in my front wheel drive car and slowly creep and slide my way back downhill until I reached a point where the conditions were safe to drive. Only 2 other cars where able to turn around and follow me, the rest remained stranded.

On my way back down Newfound Gap Road towards the Sugarlands I observed at least a dozen or so cars driving up towards Newfound Gap. I thought they would also get stuck behind other cars which were already stranded in the ice and I could only hope they would be able to be safely rescued.

As I passed the parking area for the Chimneys Trailhead I saw a sander truck on its way up the mountain. After the sander truck no further traffic headed up the mountain.

At the Sugarlands intersection the gate was down closing the road with a park rangers car blocking the road from any further traffic heading towards North Carolina.

The revised weather report is calling for anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of snow during the night so the park service announced that the Newfound Gap Road (441) will be closed until at least late in the morning tomorrow when the road can be evaluated for safety.

Earlier today the road leading up to Clingmans Dome was also closed due to snow and ice and may open after Newfound Gap is opened as long as the road conditions on this steep winding road are safe enough for all vehicles.

4 wheel drive or not - Newfound Gap Road is not the place to be tonight!

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