Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

Expect traffic jams and big crowds for the eclipse

Eclipse madness is surging across Idaho.

Businesses within the stripe of Idaho cities and towns where the moon will totally block sunlight on Aug. 21 have one eye on the sky and another on the cash register. Hotels are booked. Porta-potty rentals are brisk. Restaurants and grocery stores are packing in extra food. Campsites are filling up. Idaho could have hundreds of thousands of visitors to see the eclipse, although there’s no official estimate. In Oregon, officials predict as many as a million visitors and warn of a possible “cosmic traffic jam.”

Communities are planning eclipse parties and distributing information on the best places to see the eclipse, which comes into Idaho at 10:10 a.m. and leaves the state at 12:48 p.m.

Crowds of 300,000 to 500,000 are expected in eastern Idaho, many of them flying to Salt Lake City and then driving to Idaho, said Kerry Hammon, a spokeswoman for the city of Idaho Falls. The regional website on the eclipse, eieclipse.com, is packed with information, including camping and viewing areas.

If you have not booked a week somewhere to settle in to await the eclipse, there are still ways you can see it. But expect lots of traffic and be prepared for crowds and contingencies, state officials say.

Idaho roads

Get ready for traffic: If you have a favorite place where you want to watch the eclipse, double the normal time it would take to get there, says Tim Marsano, Idaho State Police spokesman. That includes routes involving Interstates 84 and 15, U.S. Highway 20 and state Highway 75 —“any road that heads north through the optimal viewing area,” Marsano said. State Police will beef up patrols through the eclipse area, pulling troopers from less-traveled parts of the state that weekend, he said. “We are expecting an immense crowd coming into Idaho from other states and throughout the world,” Marsano said

Road construction: The Idaho Department of Transportation is suspending construction Aug. 19-21 in areas where heavy eclipse traffic is anticipated, to help keep traffic moving and crews safe.

No roadside viewing: Use the shoulder only for roadside emergencies, not to gawk at the eclipse, transportation officials say. “We don’t want people stopping in the middle of the road when the eclipse (happens),” said Bill Kotowski, Idaho Department of Transportation spokesman.

The biggest traffic jam: The worst traffic may not be people coming to see the eclipse, but motorists eager to leave all at once afterward, planners say. Some communities are suggesting visitors stay awhile, rather than trying to leave immediately.

The numbers

Expect lots of people: No one knows for certain how many people will show up. But the eclipse is a highly publicized event that happens at one specific time, community leaders note. Visitors to specific cities and regions in Idaho could range from 20,000 to hundreds of thousands. (The Oregon Department of Transportation is projecting a million visitors and warns of a “cosmic traffic jam” if people don’t plan ahead.)

Traveling

Gas: Leave home with a full tank of gas. Some of the communities where you can view the eclipse, such as Crouch, have just a couple of gas stations.

Provisions: Bring food, water and other stuff you might need. Stores and restaurants could easily be overrun with people who don’t prepare ahead. Don’t leave trash: Pack out what you pack in. Make sure you have enough cash or credit cards. ATM machines hold only so much cash, say Idaho tourism officials.

Stanley plans big solar shindig

Stanley’s biggest event each summer is the Mountain Mamas’ Arts and Crafts Festival in mid-July, which draws 8,000 to 10,000 people. For the eclipse, Stanley is bracing for 20,000. Undoubtedly people coming to Stanley are lured to all that open land along Idaho 21 between Banner Summit and the town as a great place to view the eclipse. But Stanley Mayor Herb Mumford cautions that a lot of that land is private, not government property.

Pioneer Park, the city park overlooking Stanley, will be closed to vehicle traffic, with only foot traffic allowed, Mumford said. On Aug. 19 and 20, the Boise Astronomical Society will put up telescopes in the park for public star viewing; the same two days, the club also will have a solar telescope available from noon to sunset and will host a laser-guided tour of the stars at 10:30 p.m.

Woody Sullivan, an astronomy professor at the University of Washington, will give a public lecture on “Awesome Solar Eclipses from Ancient Time Until Tomorrow” at 3 p.m. Aug. 20 in the Community Building.

Restaurants and stores are stocking up for huge crowds. You may see some semi-trailers parked near businesses to hold all the extra provisions they are stocking up on, Mumford said.

Stanley has not set aside a public viewing area. But the Sawtooth National Forest is working on a couple of places. One will be a fire base camp off Idaho 75 south of the Redfish Lake turnoff. Watch for signs. Forest officials are working on another venue, but details are not set. Check the Sawtooth National Forest website closer to eclipse day for more information.

Redfish Lake Lodge and the reserved campgrounds at the lake are booked. First-come, first-served campsites are expected to go quickly. But people can view the eclipse at the beach and at places around the lake.

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Source: Solar Eclipse 2017

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