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NC mountain visitors warned of toppling trees, as part of Blue Ridge Parkway reopens

This photo provided by the Boone Police Department shows a home was destroyed by a gas leak following a landslide from the effects of Subtropical Storm Alberto on Wednesday, May 30, in Boone, N.C. Sgt. Shane Robbins said the landslide resulted in the "catastrophic destruction" of the home because of a gas leak. On Monday, the U.S. Forest Service warned visitors to the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests in Western North Carolina of the potential trees toppling in high winds and because of the recent rains,. Landslides and    flooding also remain threats, officials said.
This photo provided by the Boone Police Department shows a home was destroyed by a gas leak following a landslide from the effects of Subtropical Storm Alberto on Wednesday, May 30, in Boone, N.C. Sgt. Shane Robbins said the landslide resulted in the "catastrophic destruction" of the home because of a gas leak. On Monday, the U.S. Forest Service warned visitors to the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests in Western North Carolina of the potential trees toppling in high winds and because of the recent rains,. Landslides and flooding also remain threats, officials said. Boone Police Department via AP

North Carolina mountain visitors should watch out for trees toppling due to high winds and weeks of heavy rain, the U.S. Forest Service warned Monday.

In a "safety alert" issued for the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests, the service's Asheville office also warned of the ongoing threat of landslides and flooding.

"Trees on saturated soils have an increased chance of falling," the service said in a news release. "High winds make falling trees even more likely. Saturated soils can also cause mudslides. Additionally, rivers and streams in the national forests are high and flowing rapidly, creating hazardous conditions.

"Visitors should use extra caution when recreating on the forest this week," according to the release.

After two weeks of sometimes torrential rains western North Carolina towns like Edneyville have been left to pick up the pieces and to rebuild their lives.

Many parts of the forests lack cellphone service, officials reminded visitors.

Four North Carolina deaths were attributed to the Subtropical Storm Alberto and more than 50 roads in western N.C. counties were closed last Thursday because of flooding, mudslides and fallen trees.

The deaths include two people who died Wednesday when a mudslide and suspected gas explosion combined to cause a home to collapse near Boone, and a TV anchorman and photojournalist were killed Monday when their vehicle was struck by a tree near Tryon, N.C.

Monday's warning came as Blue Ridge Parkway officials separately announced that a stretch of the parkway that includes the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct has reopened after months of repairs.

"Travelers can still expect some work ongoing as the contractor wraps up some final pieces of the project, but through travel has been restored, parkway officials tweeted. Enjoy the Ride!"

The viaduct wraps around Grandfather Mountain and was closed for three months for road resurfacing and bridge repairs. One of the parkway's most popular tourist draws, the viaduct is 18 miles southwest of Blowing Rock and about 105 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Staying safe in the N.C. mountains

The U.S. Forest Service offers this advice when visiting North Carolina's mountains:

Avoid traveling alone. If you do travel by yourself, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

Don't move barriers, which are placed at closed roads for safety. Don't drive around barriers in the mistaken belief that your vehicle can handle any situation.

Take shelter immediately in high winds.

When canoeing or kayaking, never try to navigate a section of river beyond your skill.

Never climb on or around waterfalls, and never play in a stream above a waterfall. Rocks can be slippery, and it's easy to lose your balance. Currents near waterfalls can be extremely swift, even in areas farther upstream.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak

Video from Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery in Chimney Rock, NC shows the raging Rocky Broad River after heavy rains Tuesday, May 29, 2018. Several areas of western NC have reported flooding and mudslides as a result of heavy rain over the past 15 days.

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