Environmental Concerns Make Clearing Snow and Ice in GSMNP A Challenge
With all the snow, ice and frigid weather that’s occurred at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the last few weeks clearing snow and ice on the roads can be quite a challenge. The National Park Service does not use ice-melting agents or salt on the roads for winter weather precipitation. Salt, brine and other ice-melting agents can have harmful effects on the environment such as killing roadside grass and other vegetation. When the roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park need clearing of snow, sleet or ice the park service relies on just sand, gravel and snow plows to clear the roads.
If salt and brine solutions were used after it dissolves it splits into sodium and chloride ions. Then the sodium and chloride ions gets carried away by the runoff and make its way into the water of streams, lakes and rivers as well as the groundwater of the park.
So the use of these harmful chemicals would result in contaminated water and harmful effects to the vegetation of the National Park and wildlife. This is why the roads are closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during inclement winter weather conditions. Until crews can get out in trucks and spread the sand, gravel or clear all the roads with snow plows roads must remain closed to the public.
The recent Siberian arctic air mass blanketing the Southeast United States has caused some record low temperatures. The peak of Mount LeConte which is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, recorded a -23 degrees Thursday morning with wind gust reported at 50 mph and 10 inches of snow. No that’s cold even for the Great Smoky Mountains!