With three weeks to go before the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials are urging anyone who plans to travel to Western Kentucky to view the eclipse to make plans now. The appeal comes as traffic engineers and police agencies prepare for up to 500,000 visitors flocking to 10 Kentucky counties along center line of the eclipse corridor.
“We want visitors to come and take in this once-in-a-lifetime event, but we also want them to be prepared for issues a mass migration of people heading to the eclipse corridor may create,” said Wade Clements, KYTC District 2 chief engineer.
The total solar eclipse will sweep across 14 states. Listed among the Top 10 eclipse viewing sites along the path, the Hopkinsville area already boasts visitors from 16 countries and 34 states on the guest list.
Preparing for a massive influx of visitors, state and local agencies have issued tips for businesses, for cross-country travelers and truckers, and for local residents. The focus is now on visitors coming to experience the event.
Clements said perhaps the best approach for visitors is to come early, select a specific viewing area, be prepared to stay put, and be willing to hang around until the initial wave of departing traffic clears.
Eclipse chasers are expected to start arriving in the area around Friday, Aug. 18, then continue to filter in with a final surge on the morning of the Aug. 21st eclipse. The partial eclipse will begin around noon, and the total solar eclipse – starting about 1:20 p.m. CDT in Kentucky – will last about 2.5 minutes. KYTC is suggesting visitors do their part by planning a specific place to view the eclipse, ideally one that has adequate parking, good access to rest rooms, and with restaurants or other food sources within walking distance. In addition, visitors should bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellant.
“We anticipate heavy traffic starting the Saturday before the eclipse, maybe sooner,” said Clements. On the morning of the Aug. 21 eclipse, we anticipate a surge of people driving in just for the day and another surge right after the eclipse as people who have driven in for the day head home. That departing traffic could last well into the evening hours. We also anticipate a final surge of traffic during the day on Tuesday, as visitors who are camping or staying the night in a hotel start to leave the area.”
Officials offer the following tips for eclipse visitors in preparation for their celestial experience:
- Be prepared for hot weather. Temps in mid-to-late August can be in the 90s.
- Bring plenty of water – about a gallon a day per person.
- Bring sun screen, insect repellant, and first aid items.
- Bring picnic or snack items. Restaurants and grocery stores may experience long lines.
- Pick a viewing location with rest rooms and easy access to restaurants or other source of food.
- Do not stop along highways. Vehicles on the shoulder hinder traffic flow and create a traffic hazard.
- Be prepared for long lines at fuel pumps. Access to fuel may be limited.
- Be aware that heavy traffic congestion may interfere with delivery of food, fuel and other supplies along the total eclipse corridor.
- Be careful – While local agencies are gearing up for large crowds, heavy traffic may hinder the ability of emergency agencies to respond.
- Be patient – You are likely to encounter slow-moving traffic at some point during your visit.
- Bring a GPS based navigation unit as cell phone navigation may be sketchy due to heavy cell and data traffic.
- If your group is traveling in several vehicles consider communicating with two-way radios as cell service near the total eclipse corridor may be limited due to heavy demand.
- Traffic through Kentucky along Interstate 24 and Interstate 69, as well as along the Pennyrile Parkway and the U.S. 68/KY 80 corridor in the western half of the state, is expected to be especially congested for several days – before, during and after the eclipse.
Clements noted that all of the agencies planning for the eclipse want visitors to have a safe and positive experience so they’ll come back when the area isn’t quite so crowded.
Additional eclipse planning resources are available at these sites:
For traffic and travel information specific to the area encompassing the path of eclipse totality in Kentucky, like these pages: facebook.com/KYTCDistrict1 and facebook.com/KYTCDistrict2.
For real-time Kentucky traffic and travel information, visit goky.ky.gov or download the Waze app.
Source: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet