Visitation down at national park, Sandy blamed

Record snow can be seen on the side of Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Record snow can be seen on the side of Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- According to figures from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, fewer people visited during October this year, than last year. The park believes an early snowfall that forced road closures lead to the decrease in visitation.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park recorded 1,112,474 visitors during October 2012 which is a 1.9 % decrease over October 2011. The yearly visitation, however, is up 7.3%, or 581,244 more visitors, than what was recorded between January and October 2011.

The slight decrease in visitation is most likely a result of a significant snow event associated with Superstorm Sandy which took place in the last few days of the month. The upper elevations of the park received a record amount of snowfall, and shut down Highway 441 for several days due to ice and snow. The news reports of the projected weather conditions might have also detoured some visitors from traveling into the park just prior to the storm event.

According to the park, even with the storm and the slight decrease in numbers compared with 2011, October 2012 visitation showed a 4% increase over the 10 year average visitation for October.

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