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Photo courtesy of NASA
A Date with Totality: traffic delays expected around eclipse posted on 07/31/2017

When the moon blocks out the sun during the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, a narrow band of Oregon will lie in the area of totality where viewers can experience a complete eclipse. And with Oregon as the first state to experience totality, an influx of visitors – perhaps as many as one million – are expected to flock to the Beaver state and travel to a location within that totality.

Madras and other areas in eastern Oregon will offer prime locations for eclipse viewers, and traffic on Hwy. 26 around the event is expected to dramatically increase. Kimberly Dinwiddie, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Community Affairs, likened it to traffic usually reserved for winter break, when it can take up to three hours to travel between Government Camp and Sandy.

“In the days surrounding the eclipse, we can expect the same type of congestion and that’s what we’re preparing for,” Dinwiddie said, adding that ODOT is expecting much higher traffic in four areas within the path of totality: the Oregon coast, Salem, Madras and other areas in eastern Oregon.

Dinwiddie’s message to the mountain community, echoed by a multitude of other government agencies, is clear: be prepared. Don’t travel if you don’t have to (consider biking or walking as alternatives), stock up on essentials (groceries, prescriptions, gas, etc.), let visitors know ahead of time what to expect and make sure that emergency services can get through. And if you do travel, take food and water, plan for bathroom breaks and leave ample time to arrive at your destination.

“Bottom line: arrive early, stay put and leave late,” Dinwiddie said, adding that ODOT will make sure there are no lane closures on Hwy. 26 for its RealTime sign project around the eclipse. “We want everybody to have a good time.”

Hoodland Fire District (HFD) Chief John Ingrao noted that the district will be “heavily staffed” around the time of the eclipse, adding that the timing of the event provides increased danger during fire season. He noted that the district is working with other agencies, including the Clackamas County Emergency Management, to prepare for responding to emergencies.

“The planets are aligned for this to be a very bad thing,” Ingrao said, adding that the annual Hood to Coast marathon will occur only days after the eclipse. “The philosophy is to hit things with as many pieces of equipment as possible to keep it small.”

Ingrao added that mountain residents can lessen their risk by reducing their exposure, including making sure vehicles are in good working order before finding yourself in gridlock, which could start as early as Thursday, Aug. 17 and stretch into Wednesday, Aug. 23.

“The common wisdom is to be prepared and take care of yourself,” he said, noting that the Mount Hood area could experience increased traffic on forest roads as viewers seek out alternative locations at higher elevations to get good views of the eclipse. “There could be a significant amount of people causing delays.”

Jim Todd, Director of Space Science Education at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), noted that some part of the world experiences the totality of an eclipse once every year or two, it’s just a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

The last totality that occurred in Oregon was in February, 1979, and before that was in 1918.

Todd stressed that weather will make a huge difference for viewers, and if people are lucky, they will be able to see a myriad of heavenly bodies, including bright stars, bright planets and even a shooting star as part of the Perseid Meteor Shower.

“You’re looking at the moon’s shadow over you,” Todd said. “Everybody will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s a very exciting event, it’s an incredible event.

Todd added that the state will not experience another totality for 154 years (while there will be approximately 25 partial eclipses able to be seen in Oregon in the next 50 years and an annular eclipse, when the moon appears smaller as it blocks out the sun, in 2023).

“It’s rare in terms of location, as far as Oregon goes,” Todd said. “It’s really been a fever pitch. Everywhere we go, we talk about it every day. It’s in our backyard.”

“It’s beyond anybody’s imagination the large volume of people coming,” he added.

The next total eclipse will occur on July 2, 2019, with the area of totality passing through Argentina.

Todd stressed that everyone viewing the eclipse should wear proper eyewear to protect their eyes, such as ISO certified solar viewing glasses. Sunglasses, he warned, will not work and eye damage to the optic nerves in the back of the eye can occur in as few as ten seconds, even if no pain is felt

“You cannot fix it, it’s permanent,” Todd said.

Todd also suggested keeping pets inside, adding that viewers, “don’t want to waste your two minutes chasing your pet down.” And he noted that from what he’s heard, anybody seeking out a spot in the area of totality can “expect company.”

“Without question, every corner of land seems to be taken,” he said.

For more information on the eclipse, visit https://www.space.com/33797-total-solar-eclipse-2017-guide.html

By Garth Guibord/MT




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