KENTUCKY (KFVS) - The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is urging residents to prepare for half a million visitors for the total solar eclipse on August 21.
The eclipse will sweep across 14 states, including Kentucky. The Hopkinsville area is listed among the top 10 eclipse viewing sites along the path, state and local agencies are preparing for a massive influx of visitors across 10 Kentucky counties with possible travel impact on another 11 counties and beyond.
According to NASA, any given point on the planet can expect a total solar eclipse about once every 375 years. Such a rare opportunity, and the first of its kind driven my social media, is expected to draw eclipse chasers worldwide.
Hopkinsville is already expecting visitors from 16 countries and 36 states.
"With NASA predicting 100,000 to 500,000 visitors in the region for the eclipse, we're urging area businesses to think through some of the supply challenges that may be created by several days of heavy demand for food, fuel and grocery supplies," said Mike McGregor, KYTC District 1 chief engineer. "Likewise, we're now reaching out to area residents, asking them to do what they can to prepare for traffic congestion anticipated over several days."
McGregor said perhaps the best approach is for area residents to prepare much the way they would if a major snowstorm were in the forecast.
"Our best guess is that eclipse chasers will start arriving in the area around Friday, Aug. 18. We're suggesting our area residents try to do their shopping and stock up on enough staple foods before then to carry them through Tuesday, Aug. 22, the day after the eclipse," McGregor said. "We anticipate heavy traffic the day of the Aug. 21 event and on the day before and after, maybe extending longer."
The partial eclipse will begin just before noon on Aug. 21. The total solar eclipse will start about 1:20 p.m. CDT, and last for just under three minutes at Hopkinsville, a bit less at other locations. The partial eclipse will then continue until about 3 p.m.
"With such large attendance numbers predicted by NASA, we're anticipating a surge of traffic as people who have driven in for the day head home starting around 3 p.m. That surge could last into the evening hours," McGregor said. "We then anticipate another surge of traffic during the day on Tuesday as visitors who have camped or stayed overnight in a hotel start to head home."
Officials advise local residents to prepare for these anticipated challenges during the influx of visitors:
- The impact of heavy traffic on the ability to get to and from work in a timely manner.
- Potential long lines at fuel pumps, limiting access to fuel needed to get to and from work.
- Ability of vendors to deliver food, fuel, groceries and other critical supplies due to traffic congestion.
- Possible cell service and data service disruptions due to heavy demand.
Traffic through Kentucky along Interstate 24 and Interstate 69 is expected to be especially congested, as well as along the Pennyrile Parkway and the U.S. 68/KY 80 corridor in the western half of the state. KY 91 between Princeton and Hopkinsville is expected to see heavy traffic where several major events are planned and the roadway closely parallels the total eclipse corridor.
McGregor suggested area residents consider the possibility of heavy traffic for a couple of days before and after the eclipse when planning doctor appointments and other activities that may require travel.
Transportation officials are continuing to work with Kentucky Emergency Management, local emergency management agencies, Kentucky State Police, local police agencies, the Kentucky Department of Tourism, and other groups to plan for the influx of visitors coming for the event.