GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Due to the forecast of severe weather, dangerously high winds, and a red flag warning, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed Elkmont and Cades Cove campgrounds.

Most park roads will also be closed to ensure the safety of visitors, employees and park resources.

The campground closures are effective immediately, and park rangers will inform campers in the campgrounds of the closure. The park rangers will close the roads by early afternoon and encourage visitors currently in the park to leave as soon as possible.

Newfound Gap, highway 441 from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Smokemont Campground, will be closed around 1 p.m. on Monday. The following roads are either already closed or will close later this afternoon:

  • Clingmans Dome Road
  • Cherokee Orchard Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley
  • Little River Road between Townsend Wye to Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Laurel Creek Road and Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cataloochee Road
  • Lakeview Drive

Gatlinburg Bypass, Foothills Parkway West (from Look Rock to Highway 129) and other park roads will remain open safely. The Spur will stay open as long as safe vehicle passage exists.

“Employee and visitor safety is our only priority,” Superintendent Cassius Cash said. “We understand these closures are an inconvenience, but we are trying to eliminate as much risk as possible during this dangerous weather event.”

Winds are expected to grow stronger overnight this afternoon, with sustained winds at 40 mph and hurricane-force gusts. A red flag warning is currently in effect for the Smokies, which means there is an increased risk of fire danger due to very low humidities and stronger winds.

A burn ban is currently in place in the park, prohibiting all campfires and charcoal use until further notice. Visitors are advised to exercise extreme caution and check the WATE 6 Weather Forecast for alerts and warnings when making travel plans.

The park will keep the campgrounds, facilities and roads closed until the high wind and red flag warnings have expired, and park rangers can assess highways and facilities.