As residents of Lincoln County are stocking up on water, food, gas, and snow fencing, Governor Kate Brown has authorized the Oregon National Guard to deploy 150 soldiers and six aircraft to help keep traffic under control. No, we aren’t expecting that overdue earthquake– yet. We are preparing for what NASA predicts will be one of the worst traffic days in U.S. history: The Great American Eclipse!
Oregon will be the lucky first state to witness the moon passing between the sun and Earth in the first total solar eclipse viewable in Oregon since 1979. It is also the first solar eclipse to pass exclusively over the United States of America. Any other eclipse that may have passed over this region occurred before the country was established.
What Makes This Eclipse Special?
The highly-anticipated event is drawing attention worldwide. Thousands of viewing events like music festivals and wine tastings are planned throughout country in the “path of totality,” or a band about 70 miles wide stretching from Oregon to South Carolina in which a total eclipse will be viewable. Several “totality parties” are taking place in Central Oregon, but are quite possibly all sold out. Hotels near the path of totality have been booked for months, with some standard rooms in humdrum towns going for as much as $600 per night. Some of the last campsites in Madras, Oregon, no larger than 20’x 20’, were reserved for $1,500. Oregon State Parks auctioned off thirty of the very last camping spots for $60,000 each!
Those who have been fortunate enough to view a total eclipse find it difficult to put their awe into words. A total solar eclipse occurs in that rare moment when the sun, Earth, and moon are in alignment. The moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow that leaves the Earth in darkness, exposing the sun’s corona. Those who are just a few miles outside of the path can view up to a 99% eclipse, which will not bring darkness or reveal the corona, the main attraction of a “total” eclipse.
Although total eclipses occur about every 18 months, it’s rare to witness one. This is because they usually take place over swaths of ocean or uninhabited land. The Great American Eclipse, set for August 21st at 9:04 am, is a significant event attracting spectators from states outside of the path and many other countries. Dedicated eclipse chasers travel around the globe to catch total eclipses, a rare event which will not occur in Oregon again until the year 2169.
What Oregonians Should Expect
A Surplus of Out-of-Towners
Hundreds of small towns across “flyover country” are anticipating the largest crowds they’ve ever received for this once-in-a-lifetime event. The 200-person town of Glendo, Wyoming, is expecting 20,000 tourists. Oregon’s own Lincoln City, a coastal town with a population of just over 8,000, is anticipating roughly 40,000 visitors. Estimates of one to two million tourists are expected to visit Central Oregon to witness the solar spectacle.
Congestion, Road Rage
Traffic is expected to come to a dead stop on August 21st. ODOT is expecting at least a million travelers to hit the state’s highways for up to a week of heavy traffic. Spokesman Don Hamilton states the eclipse will cause “the biggest traffic event in Oregon history.” An influx of rental cars and RVs will be added to the highways as well as single-lane rural streets. The drive up highway 97 from Madras to Bend is expected to balloon to 8 or more hours for what is usually a one hour journey.
While Portland is just outside of the path of totality, ODOT is following travel rumors closely. Hamilton found out via Twitter that people from Seattle may be commuting down in the wee hours of Monday morning, complicating Portlanders’ morning commutes. Severe gridlock is expected to cause delays for several hours. ODOT recommends people stay home if possible and, for those who must drive, is asking drivers to prepare for the possibility of getting stuck in their cars by stocking up on gas, food, water, and other supplies. Drivers should also expect a loss of cell service as more visitors increase the load on networks.
There is also concern that emergency vehicles will have difficulty responding to emergencies like car accidents, wildfires, and anything else that can go wrong. Drivers stuck in traffic during the eclipse should also be aware of other drivers who may stop their cars completely to observe the cosmic phenomenon. ODOT states that the traffic the eclipse will attract could very well be likened to the traffic during January’s snowstorm.
For a comprehensive list of Oregon cities in the path of totality, click here.
Keep up with the latest on issues impacting traffic, safety, and well-being in Portland by visiting www.rizklaw.com. If you or someone you know has been hurt in an accident, attorney Richard Rizk and his team will be happy to review your case for free. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to schedule a consultation.