FRANKFORT, KY (WFIE) - State and local agencies are preparing for a massive influx of visitors during a Total Solar Eclipse that will sweep across the region on the afternoon of August 21, 2017.
While the celestial event will include 14 states across the nation's midsection, ground zero for the eclipse runs from near Carbondale, Illinois, to Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
A total eclipse is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. According to NASA, any given point on the planet will only experience a total solar eclipse about once every 375 years.
Ten western Kentucky counties are bracing for an influx of anywhere from 100,000 visitors up to a half-million or more starting about three days before the eclipse. Another 11 counties are preparing for a mass of traffic as visitors travel to and from the total eclipse zone.
At 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds, Kentucky has the longest eclipse duration making it even more attractive as a viewing destination.
The total eclipse will arrive at 1:20 p.m. CDT on August 21. The partial eclipse will start about an hour before the total eclipse and will continue on until about an hour after the total eclipse has ended.
Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM) is working with local, state and federal officials on a number of contingencies for the eclipse event.
"We've undertaken a significant planning initiative over the past six months, engaging with local county officials in the 21 counties within the eclipse zone, in addition to our state and federal partners, to ensure the availability of mutual aid resources, communication interoperability and command and control to provide a safe and enjoyable event area," said KYEM Director Michael Dossett. "Before you leave home, plan a specific destination for viewing off the roadway, possibly from a park or other reserved location. With the increase in visitor traffic, planning ahead is a must to enjoy the event. Kentucky is always a favored travel destination and our emergency services partners are working diligently to ensure our visitors enjoy a safe venue for this benchmark event," said Dossett.
According to weather experts, Kentucky and Tennessee have the least likelihood of cloud cover that might block viewing opportunities. Dossett says visitors should also be prepared for variable weather conditions in late-August such as hot weather and the potential for severe weather.
"During the third week of August, we often have temperatures in the 100-degree range. That creates concern about heat-related and other health issues. Visitors should bring plenty of water, about a gallon per person per day for the duration of their stay. During this time of year, there is always a chance for severe thunderstorms. Visitors in rural areas may have difficulty finding shelter and should familiarize themselves with their surroundings."
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is helping plan for potential traffic issues that might result from thousands of visitors flocking to the area.
"We anticipate that a majority of the visitors will filter into the eight-county region over the two or three days before the eclipse," said Wade Clements, KYTC District 2 chief engineer. "Once the eclipse is over, we are expecting traffic issues akin to what Louisville faces before and after the Kentucky Derby or Thunder Over Louisville. We urge motorists to plan ahead before traveling to or through the region the day of the eclipse."
With the increased number of visitors in the area, there is potential for gridlock along our Interstate 24 corridor through Kentucky and along KY 91 between Princeton and Hopkinsville. Expect local roadways to become heavily congested as well. In an effort to minimize traffic delays, KYTC is partnering with local law enforcement, Kentucky State Police and emergency planning agencies to assist with traffic control before, during and after the event.
Local and state officials are asking visitors who plan to travel to view the eclipse and people who live within the eight counties in the total eclipse zone to be fully prepared for what they will encounter.
State officials provided the following list of specific recommendations for eclipse watchers:
- Choose a specific place to watch the eclipse. If you stop randomly along area highways, you can be issued a citation for impeding traffic. Parking along right of way creates a number of hazards.
- Restroom facilities will be at a premium. Pick a viewing location with appropriate facilities.
- Bring an ample supply of food and water for the duration of your planned stay.
- Have a specific place to stay - Either a hotel room or appropriate campsite.
- Be prepared for traffic delays. Thousands of visitors may create traffic gridlock at some critical intersections and interchanges, particularly along the I-24 corridor and KY 91 corridor.
Additional eclipse planning resources are available at these websites:
KYTC and KYEM will provide additional information and traffic advisories as the eclipse date approaches.