Kentucky transportation officials are urging people planning to visit western Kentucky for the August 21 total solar eclipse to plan ahead.
There are three weeks to go before the event.
Traffic engineers and police agencies in the area are preparing for up to 500,000 visitors flocking to 10 Kentucky counties along the 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, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) District 2 chief engineer.
The Hopkinsville area already expects visitors from 16 countries and 34 states.
Clements said the best approach for visitors is to come early, select a specific viewing area and to be prepared to stay put and willing to hang around until the initial wave of departing traffic clears.
Eclipse chasers are expected to start arriving in western Kentucky on Friday, August 18 and then the final surge is expected on the morning of the eclipse, August 21.
The partial eclipse will begin around noon and the total solar eclipse will start about 1:20 p.m. The total eclipse will last about 2.5 minutes.
KYTC suggests that visitors do their part by planning a specific place to watch the eclipse, ideally one with adequate parking, access to restrooms, and food sources within walking distance.
Visitors are also encouraged to 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.”
Here are some other tips from the KYTC:
-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 along Interstate 24 and Interstate 69, as well as the Pennyrile Parkway, is expected to be congested for several days before, during, and after the eclipse.
The following sites provide more information on the eclipse:
(This story was originally published on July 31, 2017)